Stadium, public safety among issues in St. Paul council race

As November’s election approaches, experts say issues like sports facilities and public safety will surface.

by Dan Murphy

An attorney, a county commissioner’s aide and a city planning commission member are among the 18 candidates seeking to win a spot on the St. Paul City Council in this fall’s election.
Although talk of a possible Major League Soccer stadium in the Twin Cities dominates discussion, experts say candidates’ stances on issues like public safety, neighborhood issues and economic development could help sway voters, who will elect seven people to represent them on the City Council on Nov. 3. There are no primary elections in St. Paul.
While former St. Paul Mayor Jim Scheibel said the city has been doing well with its economic development strategy, the issue of whether to subsidize public development — like the potential soccer stadium — will come up.
One of the bigger issues this cycle will continue to be the vitality of the city’s neighborhoods, which are central to St. Paul’s identity, said Hamline University political science professor Joseph Peschek.   
“St. Paul has a strong history of active participation by neighborhoods,” he said. “People aren’t looking for what candidates will do for them, but what they will do with them to improve our neighborhoods.”
Scheibel also said public safety would be an issue that candidates will have to confront.
“Safety always has been and continues to be a big issue,” he said. “I think we’re a safe city, but I think that’s a big priority.”
With two incumbent council members — Ward 2 city councilman Dave Thune and Ward 7 city councilman Bill Finney — not running again, Peschek said those two races could be especially noteworthy.
“Any open-seat race is interesting,” he said, adding that the Ward 2 race should be the most competitive. 
In Ward 2, six candidates — including Rebecca Noecker, a member of the St. Paul Planning Commission, and Darren Tobolt, a Ramsey County commissioner’s assistant — will vie for Dave Thune’s open seat. 
Attorney Jane Prince won the DFL endorsement for Ward 7, and she is running unopposed. Finney, who will vacate the seventh ward’s seat, replaced longtime councilwoman
Kathy Lantry in January after Mayor Chris Coleman appointed her head of St. Paul’s Department of Public Works.