Anika Bowie did not respond to the survey
Travis Helkamp did not respond to the survey
Lucky Tiger Jack Rosenbloom did not respond to the survey
James Lo [JL] responses appear below
Jeff Zeitler [JZ] responses appear below
Yan Chen [YC] responses appear below
Omar Syed [OS] responses appear below
Suz Woehrle [SW] responses appear below
Do you support the current renter stabilization ordinance, and if not, what changes would you apply?
JL: As a candidate for the Saint Paul City Council, my primary goal is to serve and represent the people of our city, balancing the needs of renters, homeowners, and landlords alike. I recognize the critical role of the Renter Stabilization Ordinance in protecting our community from sudden and unmanageable increases in living costs. It's vital that we maintain stability and affordability in our housing market, especially for the most vulnerable members of our community.
However, we must also be cautious of unintended consequences. Strict rent stabilization measures could potentially discourage property improvement and new housing developments. We need to ensure that our policies also encourage the health of our housing market, and the maintenance and improvement of rental properties.
Therefore, if elected, I would propose a review of our current ordinance. This review would aim to identify areas of improvement and ensure that it balances tenant protection with the health of the housing market. We would involve all stakeholders – renters, landlords, and developers – in this conversation to ensure we address their concerns and find the best path forward.
Our city needs policies that are fair and that create a sustainable and inclusive future for all residents. If elected to the city council, I am committed to achieving this balance.
JZ: I understand the difficulty that this presents for landlords. However, as this was a ballot measure passed by St. Paul voters, we have to respect the will of the people. I would add, however, that because landlords' rent increases are capped at 3%, tax assessments and utility bills for rental properties should also be capped at 3%.
YC: I think our current renter stabilization ordinance is ineffective and doesn’t solve the problem it intended to solve. The problem with rental control in general is the unintended consequence it introduces: a stagnant rental market. People who are benefited from the rental control don’t have any incentive to move, and consequently young people or new comers who just enter the market won’t be able to find affordable housing.
I will approach this issue by: 1. Keep the current ordinance as it is until we have found alternatives 2. Develop programs to help renters who want to own to transition into homeowners 3. Make the rental market pricing more transparent by understanding the ratio of collected rent to property tax since property tax is the biggest expense for all the landlords (Please see www.chen4ward1.com for more details)
OS: As a renter, I support rent stabilization and voted for the 2021 ballot measure. I know ensuring buy-in from all parties has been difficult. I believe in a balanced approach that protects renters while still allowing for new development and housing supply. I believe the changes made since implementation have brought the policy in line with that vision. I support the current policy while we gather more data to determine its effectiveness.
SW: I support rent stabilization in Saint Paul, including the 3% annual cap on rent increases.
Do you support the construction of the Summit Ave. bike lane?
JL: Thank you for bringing this up. I'm aware that the Summit Ave. bike lane has been approved by the current city council members. This decision represents a step forward in making our city more bicycle-friendly and promoting a greener and healthier lifestyle among our citizens.
However, I understand that this decision might not be universally popular, and some citizens may have concerns. I believe it's crucial to address these concerns and ensure this development benefits everyone in our community as much as possible.
If I am elected, I pledge to monitor the implementation of the bike lane closely. I will work with city staff, cyclists, residents, and businesses to mitigate any potential issues, like traffic congestion or parking loss. If problems arise, I will advocate for necessary adjustments to the plan.
Furthermore, I will push for comprehensive communication about the changes and their benefits, as well as public education on sharing the road safely. I believe it's essential to ensure every citizen understands the bike lane's benefits and how they can coexist with it safely and harmoniously.
I also believe this bike lane provides an opportunity for us to assess and learn from its implementation. This way, we can apply those lessons to future projects, ensuring we continually improve our approach to making our city more bike-friendly and sustainable.
My commitment to you is to make the best of this situation, regardless of whether you initially supported or opposed the bike lane, and work towards a city that serves all its residents' needs effectively.
JZ: No. I am a cyclist and love bike lanes. I'm excited about the new Ayd Mill bike path. But the design of the Summit bike lane is an expensive reworking of a street that already has bike lanes and currently functions well. Why would we want to cut trees and spend city money to replicate what we already have, and additionally, risk degrading a beautiful, historic city avenue? A walk down Summit shows that many of the neighbors have signs opposing the plan, and we should respect the wishes of the people most affected by it.
YC: NO! I am in general against construction of any bike lane that eliminates parking. We cannot force people to stop driving by eliminating already limited parking. Rather, we have to make public transportation more available and bike/scooter/moped transit safer by using common sense and forward thinking approaches. In my opinion, I think it is important for our newly constructed bike lane to be wide so that both experienced and inexperienced riders can enjoy it. We can redesign our streets smarter by one way driving or by reduced green boulevard space. In the case of Summit Ave, I have walked the Summit Ave in Ward 1 and checked out the road conditions. In my opinion, I think Summit Ave’s bike lane is in an excellent condition and doesn't need much reconstruction everywhere except from Lexington to Arundel where the street is in very poor condition and with a much narrower bike lane compared with the rest of Summit Ave. To make this section more consistent with the rest of Summit Ave, could residents come up with a plan to widen the current bike path by 10”-20”? I think it is time for the Summit neighborhood to come up with a plan and decide on a path forward for the best for their neighborhood and they definitely have opinions about this that I will represent for them on the Council.
OS: We deserve a safe, accessible, and repaired Summit Avenue. The fact is that the water and sewer pipes underneath the road have not been overhauled in nearly a century and that has to be addressed. While the street is rebuilt, we must take the opportunity to make standard, data-driven safety improvements. Improvements that will save lives. I truly believe this plan will accomplish both of those objectives while continuing to maintain the beautiful, historic, and green Summit Avenue - while also helping us reach our city’s environmental commitments. While I know some will not agree with my decision, I did the hard work of listening to all voices and stakeholders and took a tough vote that I thought would benefit our community. As your council member, you can always count on me to do that.
SW: I enthusiastically support separated protected bike lanes on Summit Avenue. I look forward to supporting many similar future projects. I do not own a car and have been waiting a long time this and other improvements in Saint Paul biking infrastructure.
Do you support the elimination of zoning for single family housing?
JL: I believe that we must preserve the character and quality of life in our existing single-family neighborhoods while also exploring ways to make our city more affordable and inclusive.
I support reevaluating our zoning policies and considering changes that could create more housing diversity. This could potentially include easing some restrictions in single-family zones to allow for 'gentle density' increases, such as accessory dwelling units (like granny flats or garage apartments), duplexes, or small apartment buildings.
But it's important to emphasize that any changes to zoning should be done thoughtfully, with extensive community input and careful planning to mitigate potential drawbacks, such as strain on infrastructure or changes to neighborhood character.
If elected to city council, I commit to taking a balanced, thoughtful approach to this issue, always with the goal of serving the best interests of all our city's residents.
JZ: No. I think the current plan to create more Traditional Neighborhoods zoning makes sense- encouraging a mix of multi-unit buildings and single family houses in a thoughtful way. But eliminating single-family zoning throughout the city makes no sense. There are some neighborhoods where fitting multi-family buildings into the existing city fabric just doesn't work.
YC: Yes, only for owner occupied units, such as condominiums and townhomes. I am very much for higher density housing in St Paul, but what type of housing matters. In my opinion, the goal for the majority of renters should be to own a home once their life circumstances/income stabilize so that they can move to an ownership position and accumulate generational wealth. In the long run, it is a lot cheaper to own a home than rent. On average St. Paul’s homeowners’ rate is around 50%. I think a healthy homeowners’ rate for a city like St Paul should be 60%. I am absolutely for opening up zoning for owner-occupied units. For rentals, I do have a concern that opening up zoning will encourage more apartment buildings, consequently more speculations from people who have a lot more money to invest than the people who live in the cities.
OS: Yes. We need more affordable housing everywhere. As Vice-Chair of zoning on the St. Paul Planning Commission, I voted in support of 1-to-4 conversions to allow for condos and in-law suites. This was an important step towards creating more affordable housing, particularly for seniors. I will continue to support efforts to expand zoning to allow for more mixed uses, support construction of more affordable housing, and level the playing field between big corporate developers and our small local developers.
SW: Yes, I support mixed-use developments, upzoning and I also support the elimination of parking minimums for new housing developments. We should be building density along transit corridors.
What is one action you would take to reduce or neutralize criminal violence to improve residents’ sense of safety?
JL: I would advocate for strengthening our relationships with county attorneys. They play a key role in our justice system, and we should work with them to implement restorative justice programs. These programs focus on rehabilitation and reconciliation, and they can help offenders reintegrate into society, reducing the likelihood of repeat offenses.
Secondly, we should engage more closely with local nonprofits. These organizations often have a deep understanding of our community's needs and can provide crucial services like counseling, job training, and after-school programs. By partnering with them, we can help address some of the underlying issues that often contribute to criminal activity, such as poverty, lack of education, and substance abuse.
Churches and other faith-based organizations also have an important role to play. They are often trusted institutions in our communities and can provide moral guidance, mentorship, and support networks for individuals at risk. We should work with them to develop programs that engage youth and other vulnerable groups, offering positive alternatives and opportunities.
In addition to these partnerships, I believe in the importance of community policing - building trust and positive relationships between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve. This could involve initiatives like neighborhood liaison officers, more foot and bike patrols, and community meetings and events with local law enforcement.
This approach requires all of us—city council members, law enforcement, the county attorney, nonprofits, churches, and community members—to work together. I commit to fostering these relationships and working collaboratively towards a city where every resident feels safe, supported, and part of a strong community."
JZ: Let the police know that they have the support of the city council. Right now they feel like nobody has their backs. We need to let them know we do. The vast majority of police officers are decent, hardworking people who are just trying to do their job and go home safely. It's good that bad cops are now being held accountable and body cameras are being used consistently. Now, we need accountability for repeat criminals that are causing havoc in our neighborhoods.
YC: I will focus on removing crime “hotspots” by working with community leaders and police. Once the neighborhood has identified hotspots of crime, I will meet with them to hear their perspectives and see whether there are strategies the City can support to prevent crimes rather than just penalty-based responses (fines and such). I will work with the police department to discuss and strategize how to make our neighborhood safer. I believe most people care about their community that supports them (the police). As a city council member, I am willing to take actions if the community still suffers from harm after other means fail. By working with the police and the local neighborhoods to foster community and dialogue, I believe we can self-police in partnership with law enforcement while helping neighborhoods look out for one another.
OS: We need a comprehensive public safety plan. I’ll advocate for community investments, better police-community relations, and improved accountability. I’ll also work to coordinate with local businesses and landlords on improving street safety.
My plan will increase funding to first responders and violence prevention programs. I’ll partner with MetroTransit to increase safety on Green Line trains and stations. I will fight for investments in neighborhood infrastructure like parks, community centers, and street lights. I’ll coordinate regular meetings between neighbors and public safety officials to ensure community voices are heard. Lastly, I’ll make sure our police officers are accountable, professional, and transparent.
SW: I support the new ordinance passed recently that will outlaw unsecured handguns in Saint Paul including in vehicles. I would also support instituting a programs similar to the Violence Interrupters program like the one they have in Chicago, which resulted in a 40% reduction in violent crime in the first year.
Do you support renegotiation of the franchise agreement with Xcel Energy?
JZ: If it saves St. Paulites money in utility fees, yes. In my interactions with Xcel attempting to fix and move power lines, I've found that they're extremely slow to respond and slower to do any work. Consequences for not serving the public that they are tasked with serving are important. If that means creating a municipal utility, or expanding District Energy, I'd be open to it, depending on what the details are.
YC: I support renegotiation of the franchise agreement with Xcel Energy by studying the success and mistakes made by other municipalities in order to achieve a win-win situation for Saint Paul current and future residents when we take renewable energy into account.
OS: Yes. Our residents deserve to have the best deal for our utilities and we can only do that by renegotiating the franchise agreement.
SW: Yes, absolutely! We should be expanding Saint Paul District Energy with more wind farms and solar panels on city buildings and property to give people a municipal energy option that uses 100% wind and solar power. We should also be lobbying the state legislature to repeal the poison pill law which prevents cities from switching over to all-municipal power.
What is your favorite thing and the least desirable thing from the Carter Administration?
JL: My favorite aspect of Mayor Carter's administration is his visible presence and engagement in the community. Seeing the Mayor out and about, listening to the community, and showing up where people need him.
However, every administration has areas where there is room for improvement. In my opinion, one area that could have been better addressed during Mayor Carter's term is the maintenance and repair of our city's streets. We've all experienced the frustration of dealing with potholes and deteriorating road surfaces. These issues not only affect the quality of our daily commutes but can also pose safety risks and damage vehicles.
I believe that a robust infrastructure maintenance plan, with a strong focus on timely street repairs, should be a top priority for our city. If I am elected to the city council, I commit to advocating for adequate funding and efficient strategies for street repairs to improve our city's infrastructure and the quality of life for all residents.
JZ: I appreciate Melvin Carter's ability to speak to people on both sides of the aisle in St. Paul, and his willingness to both work with developers and tenants on the rent control issue. He's been a very diplomatic mayor, which is a skill that is needed. However, I think he's been too slow to address public safety- the increase in crime on his watch and poor street maintenance is unacceptable to many St. Paulites.
YC: I applauded the Carter Administration’s recent veto of a tax raising early childhood education ballot measure by being practical and rational. My least desirable detail was about his proposed budget for 2024. I approached him in April 2023 and asked him to take a look at my campaign website where I outlined why his past budgets have neglected our Public Works with the hope that he had enough time to change his course for the 2024 budget. Sadly, he didn’t do anything when he announced his proposed budget for 2024 in August. He used a very similar allocation for his 2024 budget as for his 2023 budget. Here we are talking about over 50 million dollars difference where he can budget for improvements to existing programs we urgently need, such as our neglected infrastructure/public works.
OS: During the height of the pandemic, the Carter administration was very helpful to small businesses in ensuring that they had access to resources and funding to survive during those very difficult times. I think that the administration can do a better job in reaching out and listening to community members when making policy decisions.
SW: My favorite details are all of the great social programs like the UBI pilot and the Inheritance Fund for mortgage assistance. My least-favorite was the Land Assessments program that was overturned by a judge for being a Land Value Tax by another name. Instead the city should have instituted a PILOT program or Payment in Lieu of Taxes, which allows non-profits to voluntarily contribute into a dedicated pot of money that can only be used for essential services like plowing, road maintenance and repair and sewer/water services.
Has the newly organized trash system in Saint Paul been successful and if not, how would you change it?
JL: The organized trash system in Saint Paul represents a significant step towards improving service efficiency and reducing environmental impact, which are major wins for our city. This system has streamlined trash collection, making it more regular and predictable, and has potentially reduced the number of garbage trucks on our roads. As a city, we have made strides in ensuring that garbage is managed effectively.
However, while I appreciate the successes of this system, I also acknowledge the concerns expressed by many residents regarding its cost. Affordability is a key factor in any public service, and it is crucial that our trash system doesn't place an undue burden on our residents.
If elected to city council, I would commit to exploring ways to make the trash collection service more affordable. This could include renegotiating the terms with our waste collection contractors, seeking state or federal grants aimed at municipal waste management, or exploring efficiencies within the system that could lead to cost savings.
At the end of the day, our goal should be to provide a service that combines efficiency, environmental responsibility, and affordability. I believe that, with the right approach, we can make our organized trash system work even better for all Saint Paul residents.
JZ: I'd open it up again to competitive bidding between companies every year. The rise in fees and decrease in quality of service may be a function of the waste companies becoming too comfortable.
YC: The newly organized trash system is a success if one only focuses on the reduction of garbage trucks passing through alleys every week. It is a disaster if one considers the amount of small haulers that the residents lost who they have developed relationships with over the years. In addition, the City had to additionally-burden the taxpayers by adding more administrative costs that are unheard of in other Cities.
Going forward, we need to develop municipal trash collection services. However, even during the years when the City devoted a high percentage of its budget to Public Works, they didn’t remove snow in the alleys. We must take on alley snow removal either before, or in conjunction with, initiating any municipal trash collection program. It is a huge undertaking, but we have to do it right to not add further insult to injury after we lost several small garbage haulers through our first coordinated trash collection process.
OS: We have been facing issues with our trash system since I moved to the United States 25 years ago. It’s time for the city to lead. We deserve a system that is accountable and responsive to its customers. That’s why I support the municipal option for trash in Saint Paul.
SW: I think the garbage collection can only be as successful as our plowing. Without the streets clear of snow, sanitation workers must work much harder to do their jobs.
Do you support historic preservation in Saint Paul?
JZ: Yes. I've been preserving and restoring a house built in 1909 for 17 years now. I live in St. Paul partly because I love the historic areas of our city. I appreciate the fact that St. Paul has preserved much of our history, while the city immediately to the west of us has not. Keeping what we already have and caring for it is more important than flashy new things, and I think that's a value that distinguishes St. Paul from many of the cities around us.
YC: I support historic preservation in St. Paul. Historic preservation takes a lot of imagination, creativity, money and effort to make a place become a part of modern society and let many more generations of people to enjoy it if it is done right. The City has to make an active effort in order to avoid becoming shiny and new, while leaving its heart and soul behind. While it may be fun to “keep Saint Paul boring” as the slogan goes, it should not apply to our beautiful historic spaces. That being said, I also understand that some parts of history cannot be preserved for very practical reasons and I will consider every preservation-effort on a case by case basis. However, I am against the demolition of Hamline Midway library and really don’t understand the rationale behind it given that we seem to have many urgent infrastructure needs instead of demolishing a library against the will of many community members.
OS: Yes. As a St. Paul Planning Commission Zoning Committee member, I voted to support the conversion of a beautiful historic building on Griggs and University into deeply affordable housing for Midway residents in Ward 1. Our historic buildings are what give St. Paul its unique and beautiful character. I will continue to support historic preservation projects as your council member.
SW: Yes! In The Death and Life of Great American Cities Jane Jacobs outlines how vital historic preservation is to a cities cultural and economic vitality. I would do everything in my power to preserve historic structures and landscapes.