Issues We Face

Barista at Work

Minimum Wage

Raising our municipal minimum wage is a top priority should I be elected. While improving the minimum wage is step one, we also must partner with local municipalities to ensure local businesses cannot simply move across the city line and thereby avoid paying a living wage. This will help the lives of our residents and have ripple effects far and wide not only to those that live and work in St. Louis Park, but those who live here and work elsewhere. 

The current minimum wage in St. Louis Park is $10.08 an hour, or $20,966.40 a year for a full-time employee working 40 hours a week. According to tax estimate calculators, that is a take-home pay of $18,037. The cheapest one-bedroom or studio apartments in the city have rents of roughly $875 a month, not including utilities. A low utility estimate of $150/mo and the cost is 68% of your income for a roof over your head. For a minimum wage worker, this leaves less than $478 a week to spend on food, gas, healthcare, and other basics of living. Every resident of our city is important to the overall prosperity of SLP, and it is unreasonable to expect anyone in our municipality to live comfortably on the current minimum wage.

Image by Brandon Griggs

Housing

As a result of the affordable housing crisis currently gripping the Twin Cities, the SLP council has made it a priority to invest into multi-family units and utilize available space for development projects to bring capacity to a place that meets our city’s increasing demand for safe, livable, affordable housing. I fully support this initiative and will continue to support initiatives that help increase affordability and access to housing.  While Saint Louis Park does not have a large amount of available space for new single-family builds it is crucial that we continue to make sure that as vertical development occurs, affordable housing is included. Additionally, action needs to be taken to continue to improve homeownership rates within the city. I’m thrilled by Saint Louis Park’s down payment assistance program. Often one of the biggest barriers to building equity through homeownership is the ability to provide the upfront cash.  One thing that I would like to enact should I be elected is a “Right of first refusal” policy. With this policy, should your landlord make the decision to sell your home, you as the tenant would have the first opportunity to purchase the home at value.
 

Image by Jon Tyson

Protecting Renters

Protecting renters is a great passion of mine; a large portion of this community rents (as I did myself for many years until just a few months ago). There are few resources available to renters regarding their rights, and all-too-few ways for renters to seek protection against landlords who are violating their tenants’ rights.


I propose two policies to help renters. The first is the creation of a position in city government for a tenant lawyer, on call to answer any questions St. Louis Park tenants have regarding their rights or seeking redress of grievances. This position would be authorized to give legal advice and would also direct residents to selected partner nonprofits focused on tenants’ rights and renter protection, should their issue require further representation.


Second is the creation of a city registry of landlords. This registry would include information such as documentation of any lawsuits filed against the landlord, their frequency of evictions, etc. This registry will provide renters useful knowledge about the rental agency, or individual, they are signing a lease with. I truly believe access to better information and resources will both give tenants more ability to fight abusive landlords but also can give landlords the opportunity to do the right thing and treat tenants with decency.

Image by Misha Feshchak

Wifi

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed many barriers in our society, and a huge one is internet access. I don’t want to see children going to McDonald’s to do their homework. In the third decade of the 21st century, internet access is a basic necessity equal to water and electricity. Studies show that children with ready access to the internet do better in school and have better educational outcomes on average. Furthermore, working families need access to quality internet to apply for jobs with a decent wage. We can and will work to find creative solutions to provide internet access to low income residents. For many of those below the poverty line, prosperity is simply an issue of barriers to entry. There is no reason why access to high-speed internet should be one of those barriers for any resident of St. Louis Park.

 

I currently see two viable solutions. First, St. Louis Park can partner with a private broadband provider to provide more affordable services for our residents. This would include subsidizing this needed service for low income residents, the same way other essentials such as food and health care are subsidized by federal, state, and local governments. A second option is partnering with a non-profit organization focused on providing internet access.  This issue could be addressed by either avenue, or by both, but more important than the road taken is that we get to the end goal: universal internet access for our city residents, regardless of their income level.

 

The numbers speak for themselves. If the cheapest plan from an everyday private internet service provider is roughly $35 a month, and our city’s reported poverty rate of 6.5% (roughly 3,120 residents) is accurate, it would cost the city about $1.3 million a year to provide internet access to all residents below the poverty line. Even at its maximum cost, a flat charge to SLP residents would cost each city resident just over $2 a month for us to provide a path to broadband internet access for every single person

Recycled Cardboard

The Environment

I am committed to the health of our environment because without it we have nothing. Firstly, I should commend the current council for the terrific work they have done to date to address climate change. If elected, I plan to continue their work and make even stronger our commitment to a greener future. There isn’t time to wait; the ramifications of climate change are already upon us. I enthusiastically approve of the initiatives taken up by the city, such as the Climate Champions Program, which help businesses make green energy upgrades; along with the Solar Sundown cost share program to help folks get access to solar.  


A new initiative I plan to pursue in office is a Pay-As-You-Save program, as proposed by Community Power, to allow for green energy updates in homes with zero upfront financing. In addition to energy initiatives, I’m excited about the new environmentally friendly transportation options coming to Saint Louis Park. I am a firm believer in the economic, environmental and safety benefits light rail will bring to Saint Louis Park. This is about us, our children and our grandchildren.  Sometimes we must plant trees knowing we will never personally get to enjoy the shade.  

Image by Duncan Shaffer

Social Justice

My past commitment to social justice is well-documented, but I don’t believe that social justice work has any definite beginning and end. Instead, social justice is a lens through which you must look at every piece of legislation. For every issue, there is a social justice perspective; for every issue, there are intersectionalities with other issues before the community as well. As a city councilmember, I will intentionally take the time to look at issues from a perspective built around equity and inclusion, because any policy that leaves marginalized communities behind does not have a place in this city. It is our duty to respect, and care for, every single one of our neighbors regardless of their background, race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, gender, religion, disability, or identity.

 
Police Car

Public Safety

Saint Louis Park has been committed to community policing for roughly 25 years. This investment into building a relationship with the community, focusing on proactive responses that are preventative rather than reactionary, has played a key role in maintaining trust with the city. I want to build on the track record of community policing and  ensure we never become complacent,  ensuring the best quality services for the city of Saint Louis Park. While we have plenty to be proud of, there is always work to be done. We need to continue to train our public safety on things like racial biases and ensure that these trainings are reflected in the field. Furthermore, I want to see how we as a city can work to provide more social workers (or just “social” instead of “social worker(s) and mental health support to our public safety. Officers are not trained mental health professionals and we need to make sure that we are providing the proper support to   our officers and to our community to provide  the highest quality of services.

Public Transport Passenger

Transportation

Light Rail: The investment of the light rail being built in our community is an exciting new chapter in how SLP residents move about the Twin Cities metro area. I’m delighted that our residents will have more access to non-automotive transportation, that our businesses will have access to a new pool of employees, and non-driving residents will have dramatically more access to the rest of the metro. In addition with the light rail comes a plethora of development around the stations that will bring more affordable housing and investments into our community. 

Connect the PARK: Connect the PARK is an exciting new initiative focused on expanding the trails and bike paths. It’s wonderful that we will soon have expansive methods of non-motorized transportation across our city. In talking to voters I’ve heard concerns about things like access to parking in front of houses, particularly from the elderly and disabled. In implementing Connect the PARK I want to work to ensure that we both provide adequate non-vehicular methods of transportation to the city while also making sure that we are keeping those who are less able bodied in mind, ensuring access to homes. I truly believe that both can be achieved.

Speed Limits: Recently the St.Louis Park City Council was authorized to have more discretion over city speed limits. This means that we can start making adequate adjustments to ensure that we are keeping our communities safe. This will entail lowering speed limits in many parts of the city, especially as we work to simultaneously increase bike and foot traffic. As your city councilman, I will take these decisions seriously making sure we strike a balance between keeping traffic moving comfortably and keeping our neighborhoods safe.