Saint Paul STRONG (SPS) invited all three St. Paul Ward 4 City Council Candidates to identify whether or not, if elected, they will support SPS six principles, as well as SPS's position on email deletion by public officials. (Published April 11, 2018)

See their responses by clicking on each candidate's name.
Shirley Erstad           Amy Ireland         Mitra Jalali Nelson



Saint Paul STRONG Mission

Saint Paul STRONG is a nonpartisan, community-led organization dedicated to improving open and representative government in Saint Paul by encouraging and supporting open and transparent public processes, engaging and empowering resident participation, and building a stronger, more inclusive Saint Paul.

Six Principles

SAFETY: We pledge to make public safety our top priority, maintaining efficient and effective first responder systems and enhancing citizen/community relationships with police, fire, and other city departments. 

TRUST: We will work to make sure full and informed citizen participation comes before decisions are made —not after—and put the interests of all the people, including the affected communities and the intended beneficiaries, ahead of personal or partisan interests.

RESPONSIBLE: We believe city officials must be accountable to all citizens—including persons of color, seniors, persons with disabilities, low-income residents, immigrants, and refugees—and that they must be fully engaged to the public, not parties, and must respond to citizen concerns in a timely and nonpartisan fashion. 

OPEN: We will break down the barriers that exclude citizen participation and bring decision-making back into the public arena where it belongs; ensuring taxpayers are fully informed and have an opportunity to participate meaningfully in decision making. 

NEIGHBORHOODS: We pledge to strengthen community voices and to work—across ward boundaries— to foster stronger neighborhoods with equal right and access to the resources and amenities of our city.

GENERATIONS: Understanding that our city was built by generations of people who loved it as we do, we pledge to build a stronger, safer, and more beautiful city for the generations that will come after us.


Strategic Plan (adopted January 2018)

Preface: A Challenging Situation.

Our City of St. Paul has a number of serious challenges. Escalating property taxes, a shrinking C-I (commercial-industrial) tax base, an image of a somewhat sleepy town dominated by insiders, a problematic small business regulatory climate, poverty, and lack of inclusiveness in decision making. Planning and development challenges such as the Ford Plant, residential density, equitable neighborhood development, and Tax Increment Financing are all on the front-burner for the new administration.

All of these issues directly impact the financial condition of our City. This, in turn, is the main determinant of our City’s direction in a number of primary areas like development, public safety, public services, and education as well as growing a new reputation for vitality and inclusivity.

There is a constellation of government agencies that serve St. Paul in a wide variety of ways - Ramsey County, the Port Authority, the St. Paul School District, and the Met Council – but City government is in the middle of this circle and at the heart of St. Paul’s future.

Unfortunately, St. Paul has made a number of decisions in recent years that are further eroding an already weak property tax base, while at the same time causing skyrocketing property taxes for residents and businesses. Improper use of Right-of-Way assessments and the over-use of Tax Increment Financing are results of poor decision making, the consequences of which will be borne by residents and businesses far into the future.

Saint Paul STRONG believes that many of St. Paul’s questionable decisions were caused by public processes that are not accessible, transparent, or particularly representative of public desires or interests.

Many of these processes have pre-determined conclusions. This is the result of St. Paul’s civic leadership having become a closed loop in a one party town with a strong mayor system. Further, our disparities in civic participation have led to disparities in funding and lack of support for parts of our City that have higher populations of people of color and low income residents.

Saint Paul STRONG’s Vision

Saint Paul STRONG is an all-volunteer group focused on local government process. We strive to be fair and impartial catalysts for openness, inclusivity, and transparency.

Having gained several years of experience as an engaged organization, Saint Paul STRONG has come to recognize the need for greater unity and attention to the common good in St. Paul.

Therefore, Saint Paul STRONG will expand its role into one that seeks to unite the community. This will include shedding light on the under-lying factors that make it difficult for St. Paul’s various entities and interests to work together to plan its future around a common vision.


·        Continue to play the role of citizen oversight and promoting public dialogue.

·        Maintain clarity that Saint Paul STRONG is focused on process, not issues.

·        Reach out and involve more young people, diverse communities, community-based organizations, and individuals of experience and standing who resonate with Saint Paul STRONG's vision.

·        Continue to meet with City and County elected and appointed officials to establish an ongoing dialogue centered on efforts to unite our community.

·        Create a number of tutorials for the web site and other modes of communication that educate the public on the basics of local government and emphasizing things that are of import, are generally fairly complicated, and are not widely understood amongst the public; e.g., how Tax Increment Financing works, how property taxes work, the Right of Way suit and its effect on taxes, how planning and zoning processes work, how district councils function, what City government boards and commissions do and how citizens can get involved, what the various levels of government do and don’t do, etc.

·        Craft a succinct message – an elevator speech if you will – that describes Saint Paul STRONG’s vision and strategic direction.


Steering Committee members include Rick Cardenas, Andy Dawkins, David Durenberger, Shirley Erstad, Don Gemberling, Laura Goodman, Jack Hoeschler, Samakab Hussein, Roy Magnuson, John Mannillo, Yusef Mgeni, Tony Parrish and Pa Chua Vang.

Saint Paul STRONG does not take positions on issues. We support inclusive, transparent, and accountable public process. While individual members of Saint Paul STRONG have diverse opinions and take personal positions on local issues, Saint Paul STRONG only advocates for good public process.