When it came down to it, it was about philosophy.
This has been the most difficult electoral decision I have had to make in a long time. Many have said it is a slam-dunk, due to decisions Kelly made leading up to last year's presidential election, but that wasn't enough for me. It is important that I vote FOR someone, not against another.
I actively sought out information; met Chris Coleman at a meet and greet, and either watched or personally attended three debates. The more I watched both these gentlemen, the clearer my choice became. It wasn't about who supported who when. It was about philosophy, and how these two candidates were going to move this city forward, in a time of fiscal uncertainty.
One candidate thinks he can do this alone. The other wants to include everyone at the table, and have everyone participate in the process, that man is Chris Coleman, and he has earned my vote for mayor of St. Paul.
I've known Randy Kelly since the late 70's. At the time, I was interning at the State Office Building and Kelly was a young State Rep from the East side. Mayor Kelly has changed over the last 30 years, and his political ideology has been running Right over the last four. He claims he has kept his promise to not raise taxes but has increased fees and assessments by over 20%. Come on, a duck's a duck.
Don't think I don't realize that Coleman will raise resources to move this city forward, but at least he is being honest about how he is going to do it. He isn't wrapping his revenue needs in a political package with buzzwords that have been screened be focus groups. Chris Coleman needs 8 million dollars to hire 100 police officers. If he can't get the money through a restoration of Local Government Aid, he will add it to the Levy over the next few years causing an increase of 12.5 percent. Regardless of where you stand on taxes, you have to appreciate a man who will honestly discuss specifics about his plan, and not hide behind words.
PARKS AND REC:
Although the Mayor has repeatedly brought up that St. Paul received the 'Academy Award' for parks, beating out all other cities in the entire country, that isn’t enough for me. Anyone can write a fancy application, lobby the appropriate people, and show off the jewels of the city, but that doesn't make all the park and rec areas perfect. My oldest son spends more time at Langford Rec Center, than he does at the two parks closest to our house. The closer ones aren't open, or have limited/awkward gym schedules. This scenario has evolved over the last 4 years. My youngest two boys come home saying ‘there is nothing to do, no where to go' because without a draw to the public areas, kids are sitting at home, sometimes unsupervised, trying to find something to do.
Chris Coleman plans on changing that. He will take down the No Loitering sings at the Rec Centers. He supports a 'Second Shift' program for kids to have somewhere to go after school. These structured environments will keep these idle and curious hands occupied in a controlled setting instead of spiraling independently towards mischief. Randy Kelly has failed miserably in that area, at least from my perspective, within the Hamline/Midway neighborhood.
The final issue that I focused on was light rail. I am a strong supporter of the University Light Rail proposal. Mayor Kelly has dropped the ball on this project. As much as I love the Ayd Mill road access, he failed to give Light Rail the same attention. In 4 years I have seen NO progress in establishing what I believe will be a crucial link in our transit network. Now we are facing fiscal restraints that could further delay this project. Chris Coleman is committed to bringing community leaders, both neighborhood and business representatives, to the table to expedite this process. Kelly had his chance, it is time for new blood in the negotiations, and to have someone who is truly supportive of the project, not lip service from an individual who’s political ideology is not consistent with the success of the venture.
So I am voting FOR Chris Coleman next Tuesday, because I feel it is necessary to move St. Paul into the future, and I don’t believe Kelly, given his political ideological transition will have the resources to do it.
Oh, and Kelly supported Bush!