City Hall and Ford Motor Company: Citizens come together to Fight

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It’s often been said that you can’t fight City Hall.

Yet, last evening, more than 200 of my neighbors showed up at a neighborhood bar to affirmatively state they can, and they will.

The issue?  The City of St. Paul’s incessant drive to rezone the former site of the St. Paul Ford Motor Company Plant into one of the most unremarkable and unoriginal mass density development projects in recent memory.

Not since the State of Minnesota built something called The Metrodome has such a hideous vision for the future been foisted upon the citizens of a community.

Imagine if you will up to 10,000 people crammed onto a piece of land that is 0.21875 of a square mile.

Goldfish have a better chance of thriving in a cereal bowl than 10,000 people do on 0.21875 of a square mile.

Last night more than 200 of my neighbors from throughout St. Paul came together to make it clear that they will not give up in their efforts to stop the City of St. Paul from implementing a zoning vision that will fail the “Once-in-a-Lifetime” opportunity on the Saint Paul Ford Plant site.

We were joined by six candidates for St. Paul Mayor:  Trahern Crews, Elizabeth Dickinson,Tom Goldstein, Pat Harris, Timothy Holden and Dai Thao.

Each of these candidates took time out from their campaigns to spend time with constituents, listening to them, not giving speeches.

It was a remarkable opportunity for citizens to get one-on-one personal contact with the men and women who may become our city’s next Mayor.

It underscored just how valuable it is in a democracy for the people to have these intimate moments of communication between those who are our elected officials, and those who seek to represent us.

Also in attendance, even though this project is nowhere near her City Council Ward, was 7th Ward City Councilmember Jane Prince.

Like the candidates for Mayor who attended, Councilmember Prince came to listen and learn – not to endorse the vision or position of any particular person or group.

One cannot be more proud of elected officials like Councilmember Prince, and Mayoral Candidates Crews, Dickinson, Goldstein, Harris, Holden and Thao for taking the time to do just that:  Listen and learn.

We stand at a remarkable point in time as it pertains to the St. Paul Ford Plant site.

On one hand you have a zoning vision that does not have the support of the vast majority of the community.

On the other hand you have the Ford Motor Company dictating to some on the Saint Paul City Council, and presumably the Mayor’s Administration, what they will or won’t do to clean up land they polluted on the banks of the Mississippi River…

Not to mention surrounded by thousands of families and children who call St. Paul our home.

Fighting City Hall is never an enjoyable experience.  It is frustrating.  Maddening.

It sometimes challenges commonsense.

For, what are citizens to do if their elected officials will not disclose what they intend to do on the most important issue to their community in a generation?

It’s nearly inconceivable that any elected official would not tell his constituents anything about where he stands on a project that will exact a dreadful toll on tens of thousands of homeowners.

Last night I heard one neighbor after another ask, “Where is our Councilmember?” “Where does he stand?”  “Why won’t he make his voice heard?”

I don’t know.  I can’t speak for him.

Neighbors want a Ford Plant vision we can be proud of and that builds upon and expands the diversity of people, culture and history of St. Paul.

A vision that makes our community the envy of the nation in harnessing the power of this polluted land into acres and acres of greenspace and recreational opportunity for generations to come.

An urban land development that combines the best of mixed use of retail, light industrial, affordable housing, multi-family housing and single-family housing that will expand our city’s tax base without stealing financial resources and opportunities from other neighbors and neighborhoods throughout St. Paul.

So, what can we do?

First, put Tuesday, August 29th from 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. on your calendar.  It’s the night that our City Councilmember Chris Tolbert will hold a Town Hall meeting on the proposed Ford Site Zoning Plan.

It will be held at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church at 700 Snelling Avenue South.

While we likely will not hear where our Councilmember stands on this issue, we should take the opportunity to respectfully honor our end of the bargain as citizens to make our voice heard with dignity and responsibility.

Second, you can contact Councilmember Tolbert now and tell him to “Stop the Ford Plan. Rethink the Development.” 

While he has been unclear and unwilling to share with neighbors his position on this project, he has been very clear and willing to let us know he will not seek to delay the planned September 27th vote of the City Council on the Ford Plant zoning plan.

Call his office and email him below with this simple message:  “I oppose the Ford Plant zoning plan and I want you to delay the September 27th City Council vote until after a new Mayor is sworn into office in January.”

Phone: 651-266-8630

Email Address: chris.tolbert@ci.stpaul.mn.us and ward3@ci.stpaul.mn.us

Third, you can get involved by putting up a lawn sign and helping us canvass Ward 3 in the days ahead.

To learn more please stay tuned and email Neighbors for a Livable St. Paul at livablesaintpaul@gmail.com

Fighting City Hall shouldn’t have to be the work of citizens.

City Hall should fight for us.

When it doesn’t we have two choices:  We can fight or we can complain.

More than 200 of St. Paul’s citizens came together last night to make it clear: We choose to fight.

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