It’s customary after the State of the Union address for a member of the legislative opposition to the President to give a response.
But Saint Paul is a one-party city. There is, currently, not a single elected Republican in any office anywhere in the city. Indeed, there is only one relatively conservative Democrat – Janice Rettman, on the County Commission – anywhere in Ramsey County.
So it falls to me to give the conservative response to Mayor Coleman’s State of the City address.
I fell in love with Saint Paul when I first really encountered it, 25 years ago. I’d moved to Minneapolis, it’s true – and had little real clue what Saint Paul was. Over the next year or so, I set myself straight; as I biked and drove around the city, I came to love the city’s distinct neighborhoods, each of which reminded me of a different place, built by a different group of newcomers.
And so I moved here in 1987, and I’ve lived here (with two years worth of temporary exceptions) ever since.
I stayed here because it was easy to get a nice house on a budget, because the neighborhoods were such nice places – someone once called the city “fifteen small towns with one mayor” -because you could live here much less expensively, because the crime rate was lower, and because the schools were, so we were told, better than in Minneapolis.
Yep. I fell in love with the place. A lot of us did.
And the relationship has become a classic case of Battered Spouse Syndrome.
You pass laws that catastrophically devalue our property, and then you jack up property taxes.
You acquiesce in the use of the city as a warehouse for the poor – and pour on the spending, heaping the burden onto those of us who actually pay taxes.
And the schools? I’m disgusted by what the Saint Paul Public Schools have become. I use “disgusted” because I don’t want to use a more colorful term. What a bottomless waste. And our kids are ones being robbed – or at least, the kids whose parents are misinformed enough to trust them to the district. And I know – that’s not the mayor’s job. But it’s a function of the one-party dystopia that this city has become.
Saint Paul has become dull. Hopeless. Depressed. After decades of cheerleading, downtown is sleepier than ever, but for the odd flashes of overcrowding during Wild games, concerts, Ordway shows or the Lowertown Art Crawl. The office vacancy rate is kept out of the three digit range only by the few remaining major employers – Hartford, Ecolab, Securian, USBank – and, of course, all. Those. Government. Offices. And. Workers.
The once-vibrant neighborhoods, outside the gentrified whir of Grand Avenue and the downmarket, multi-culti scrabble on Payne, are wondering where the next hit’s gonna come from.
Some may call this sour grapes from someone whose party is far out of power. OK – so what does the Coleman Administration have to brag about after seven miserable years in office? Cheerleading about community outreach education. A train that will do nothing useful for this city or the metro area – at best, gentrifying a few tiny islands while accelerating the rot in between. And maybe, just maybe, an expensive downtown stadium we can’t afford (which will be built by Mayor Coleman’s union underwriters, using labor that largely drives in from Inver Grove Heights and Elko). And spending. Always, always, more spending.
The state of the City of Saint Paul is atrocious. Deadening. Depressing. Dismal. Dingy. Bordering on Dire.
And there is no hope – none – on the horizon, because this is a one-party city, and the party in power, and that it appears will be in power for my kids’ lifetimes, is committed to fighting rot and blight with more rot and blight.
That’s the real state of Saint Paul. You’re welcome to it.
I still love my adopted city. But I doubt more than ever that it can survive its government.
Comments welcome at Shot In The Dark.