ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The top candidates in the mayor's race shared two hours of radio time Thursday, looking to break from the pack as Election Day quickly approaches in the Capital City.
Minnesota Public Radio hosted the five hopefuls with the strongest campaign financials, including former St. Paul City Council Members Pat Harris and Melvin Clark III, current City Council Member Dai Thao, former St. Paul School Board Member Tom Goldstein and the endorsed Green Party candidate Elizabeth Dickinson.
They debated issues ranging from affordable housing to transit to public safety to the former Ford plant site.
Some residents of the surrounding neighborhood have asserted the proposed housing density in the 148-acre site is too high, and will lead to traffic and crime issues.
The moderator, MPR's Tom Weber, asked about efforts underway to force a referendum on the master plan approved by the City Council.
Council Member Thao, who voted against the plan, argued a compromise was needed that gave the neighbors more of a say.
"It’s maximized for profit, it’s tearing the community apart, it’s pitting neighbors against each other," Thao said.
Carter said, given the need to expand the city's property tax base, the mixed density plan makes sense.
"It’s beyond me how we can just logically come to the conclusion that we should limit the amount of housing that we build at the Ford Plant, which is a huge opportunity for us," Carter remarked.
Goldstein said the City should've worked harder to find another industrial use site where 2,000 once worked, something along the lines of the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Shakopee.
He also asserted the zoning change for the land was pushed through too quickly.
"And I think this proposal was being pushed through for a reason of political expediency actually rather than need," Goldstein argued
Harris said he agrees some residential use of the land is in order, but he said changing the zoning before there was a developer with a specific plan put the City at a disadvantage.
"What I fear is that an out-of-town developer is going to come in with a pre-zoned site, they’re going build that to the maximum density they possibly can," Harris remarked. "And then they’ll spin it off to a private equity group and get a house in the Hamptons."
Dickinson said she likes the plan for the most part, because of its tiered building layout and the use of captured rain and snow melt for a water feature. But she said she also respects the rights of opponents to force a referendum if they can gain that much steam.
"I believe there are still a lot of opportunities for public feedback, because Ford can sell it to whomever they want," Dickinson explained. "And it’s the point when the developer gets involved when the rubber meets the road."
Mayor Chris Coleman, who has served as the city's mayor for the past 12 years, has decided to move on and run for governor, and there's no clear favorite in the battle to succeed him.
"The life outcomes for a child born in Saint Paul today can be better predicted by that child’s race and that child’s zip code, than by how smart she is and how hard she works," Carter remarked. "We have to build a city that works for everyone."
The moderator also brought up the controversial mailer that attempted to link an uptick in reports of gunshots fired to the two pistols stolen from Carter's home during a burglary. The anti-Carter mailer was produced by the independent expenditure group Building a Better Saint Paul, which was backed by the police officer's union, the St. Paul Police Federation.
"My daughter came home from school and wanted to know if the police don’t like us," Carter recalled. "I was able to tell her that’s not the takeaway to take from that experience because this certainly is NOT the way Saint Paul operates."
The union's president, Office Dave Titus, eventually apologized to Carter and said it was not the intent to imply there was a cause-effect relationship between the burglary and the shots fired.
Pat Harris has won the endorsement of the police union, but condemned the mailer. He repeated that during the MPR debate.
"I’ve called for the resignation of the Police Federation board. I’ve returned money," Harris said. "It’s not my character. It’s not me. It’s not the character of Saint Paul. It’s a preposterous theory in and of itself."
When asked if he'll reject the police union's endorsement, Harris said he wants to see the union's leadership step down but he still appreciates the support of rank-and-file officers.
Carter said some of those same offers have called to offer support and pledge their vote in the days since the mailer went public.
Election Day in Tuesday, Nov. 7 and thousands have already made their decision, taken advantage of early, absentee voting.
Results will take longer in St. Paul because the reallocation of ballots in the city's ranked choice instant runoff will be done manually.
For more information on all the candidates in St. Paul and Minneapolis click on the Meet the Candidates page in on kare11.com
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