Tuesday, November 8th, is Election Day in many places across the USofA. The off-years are usually municipal elections, a tradition here in the cities of Minnesota where we keep local races from being lost amid the flurry of state and national contests. Saint Paul, my city, has the entire City Council up this year, along with most of the School Board.
I am greatly honored to be a part of the campaign to re-elect my friend and a great leader for our city, Dave Thune, here in Ward 2. I hope all of you who live here can join me in voting him back in to finish up the great work he has done for us.
I should start by explaining that I am the campaign manager for Dave this time around so that my interest is clear. But that’s not important – I took the post because I very much believe in Dave and what he has done for us. He is the essence of what it means to serve at a local level and make a city work.
Saint Paul is typical of many cities in that the burning big issues heat up in the friction between 293 thousand-some people – yet what matters most is that the city keeps moving on, providing essential services that affect and define people’s lives constantly. The city paves the roads, provides the police, sends out the paramedics, keeps up the parks, and keeps an eye on economic development. Along with the School Board, they craft everything that we depend on when we wake up each morning.
Campaigns at the local level are sometimes swamped by issues that seem bigger, such as our lingering Depression or the great mess of vacant and foreclosed houses that dot our neighborhoods. But in the end the people we elect this year are charged with making the city work.
Dave Thune understands the give and take of it in his guts. His style on most issues is to lead from behind, supporting neighborhood activists who are working to improve their own neighborhoods. Whether it’s about creating new parks, such as Pedro Park downtown or new off-leash dog parks, Dave has been there to support their efforts. When neighborhoods have had to take on landlords who didn’t care who they rented to and tolerated very bad behavior that threatened the whole neighborhood, Dave has been there for them. Big redevelopment projects, like the re-use of the great Schmidt Brewery, started out with dreams that Dave helped to make happen.
Yet what Dave is most known for is taking a bold stand – as he always says, ‘There’s no point to being elected if you don’t do anything with it.” He was out front for equal rights for homosexuals in the 1990s, and more recently sponsored the city’s domestic partnership registry. He’s most known for the ban on smoking in bars and restaurants, an ordinance he initiated which cost him a lot of support. There are many redevelopment efforts Downtown and throughout the neighborhoods that he took on as personal projects, unwilling to let historic buildings be demolished.
Through it all, Dave has been highly focused on making the city work. When general criminal activity bubbles up, as it sometimes does, it’s always been Dave that brought the neighbors together with the police and helped teach them how to be the eyes and ears that lead to arrests. Dave has had many sleepless nights over the city budget, about as tight as it can be, working to keep the services we need without raising taxes.
It’s this balance between the details that do not make the news and firm grasp of the big issues that sweep over our city that makes Dave so important. He’s never shied away from a tough stand when it had to happen, however. I always joke that Dave has 2 friends for every enemy – but he has a lot of enemies. You simply cannot balance the needs of a place as diverse as Ward 2 without upsetting some people. Dave does it with great courage.
Things are tough this year and the challenges we face are harsh. Yet we have great projects moving forward and life in Summit Hill, Downtown, West Seventh, and the West Side is looking better than it has in a long time. Dave is slow to take credit, preferring to point to how he simply supported the neighborhoods in their efforts to make things work. That’s true, but without Dave a lot of it would never have happened. We need this leadership so we can keep the momentum going through hard times.
Please vote for Dave Thune on Tuesday if you live in Saint Paul’s Ward 2 and put out the flag to remind your neighbors. Thank you.