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: We need to revisit this issue in every aspect. It needs to be fair for both sides and I will be personally involved. Tenants need to be protected from predatory practices. Landlord investments should be economically fair, but not extreme. Tenants need to have the city as an advocate and protector to ensure that our community treats everyone fairly.
Currently in the balance of the relationship between renters and landlords, the landlords have all the information. What if the city was able to keep records using court records and surveys, so renters could check the records of apartments and landlords to find out information like:
· Are routine repairs done in a timely fashion, no matter how small?
· Are the apartment owners fair and considerate in financial matters?
· Do the landlords insulate/maintain the building to keep utility costs down?
· Does the landlord maintain building security?
· Does the landlord ensure reasonable sound standards?
· Are the common areas nicely kept and maintained?
This kind of information could make the whole community better. Information would be a good way of rewarding the good landlords and good apartment maintenance that we know is common in this community.
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: One of my principles is to listen to the people and then to represent them well. As I walked and talked to people in the neighborhoods around Summit Avenue, the opposition to the Summit Avenue Bikeway Proposal is clear and resounding. The neighborhood deserves a city council person to represent that opposition in the strongest terms.
Summit Avenue is already the nicest place to bike. When St Paul as a whole cannot be safe for bikes, it does not make sense to create a few miles of an even safer bike area at an exorbitant cost. Included in this plan is speeding up traffic. With same high number of intersections/conflict points, that would increase the danger to bikes.
The planned loss of hundreds of trees would be devastating to beauty of Summit Avenue. It is contrary to our preservation goals. Summit Avenue cannot continue to be named one of the 10 Great Streets in the U.S. without the grand majestic mature trees.
St Paul should preserve the current beautiful Summit Avenue!
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 in representing neighborhoods in what they want. Each neighborhood should be looked at individually. Mixed use has been very good in my ward in the area around University especially. However not every neighborhood has the same access to multiple transportation methods. Since we are already a developed city, the question has to be, “What makes sense for this neighborhood?”
Given St. Paul's constrained development space, we must adopt more innovative approaches to land utilization. We should permit greater flexibility for tiny homes and accessory dwelling units. I support this proposal as our best way of increasing housing in an affordable way. Additionally, vertical expansion is a viable solution, involving the construction of more apartments and condos or repurposing commercial properties into housing units. Addressing the housing shortage crisis should also involve action at the state level.
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: This question actually has two parts: renewing our sense of safety and improving our safety levels.
Studies have shown that people feel increasingly unsafe even when safety measurements are improving. I believe that the time period of Covid isolation reduced our sense of community and safety. Indeed we have even found ways to even shop in isolation. Since Covid, we have been slow to restart our community gatherings. St Paul need to encourage community gatherings, neighborhood cleanups, more walking and even online ways of creating community.
To increase safety as well as sense of well-being, we need to ensure that community and police work closely together in a respectful way. By investing in community-based initiatives, mental health services, conflict resolution programs, and other proactive measures, we can create a collaborative approach that works alongside our existing police force. St. Paul has been a leader in areas like pretrial policing and we need to encourage that kind of innovation. Policing is only a stop-gap for the most extreme problems. It takes all of us working together to make this community both feel safer and be safer.
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 core services, especially 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 we should focus as city on core services. If we have expensive big projects, then we should look to the county and the city for funding. I commit to advocating to advocating at the state and county projects. I see working together with other levels of government as a better approach to fixing many issues.
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?
JL: Yes, our historic St Paul buildings are a record of ourselves and our communities. Preserving important historic resources creates a visible connection with our community's history and culture. It promotes our community unity while preserving our diversity. Noting historic places and the events that happened there connects us to our history. This is especially important for the historical moments that are otherwise not recognized. Preservation also helps to promote sustainability by reusing existing structures, reducing waste, and preserving natural resources. It will provide economic benefits, by creating jobs, increasing property values in historic districts and creating pride in our community. It promotes St Paul as a target destination for tourism. We have to preserve the best of our history and culture. I am honored to recently be endorsed by the St. Paul Historic Preservation Political Committee for my enthusiastic, support, value and personal connection to preservation.
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.