I never met Councilmember Dai Thao until he showed up at O’Gara’s several weeks ago at an event that resulted in over 250 people attending to voice their opposition to the current zoning plan for the Saint Paul Ford Plant site.
We spoke briefly, and I thanked him for attending the event.
He went about talking with my fellow guests and neighbors, listening to their concerns about the effort of the City to drown out community voices and pass a zoning plan that is oppose by the vast majority of the community.
In recent weeks Councilmember Dai Thao has become a leading public voice in opposition to a current majority of his City Council colleagues’ efforts to jam through the Ford site zoning plan
He voted against a weak, meaningless and counterproductive amendment by my own City Councilmember, Chris Tolbert, and made it clear he was not comfortable with the rush to judgement by the City on the Ford site zoning plan.
Today, he came out publicly opposing the Ford site zoning plan and outlined his reasons for opposing the plan, and calling for a series of studies prior to any further movement on the Ford site zoning plan.
In a Facebook Live announcement today, Councilmember Dai Thao said, “…I do not support the Ford Site as it currently stands. We must have a more transparent and accountable process where we not only listen but hear the voices of our community members.”
He went on to articulate what he does support with respect to the Ford site:
- Density must have affordable housing at 30% of the area median income
- There should be Multi-modal transit options for bikes, pedestrians, and public transportation
- We need actual Green space kids can play on and stormwater management infrastructure
- And we need a Community-driven process that is transparent and accountable to the people not the developer
He made it equally clear what he does not support at the Ford site:
- I don’t support Drowning out community voices
- I don’t believe in Claiming success for the number of meetings held where people are not listened to nor heard
- I don’t support a plan that doesn’t include a health impact assessment and a traffic study that does not includes winter driving
He summed up his feelings by making this statement:
“And I don’t support profit-driven process pitting neighbors against neighbors where the community loses out and the developer walks away with massive profit on the backs of taxpayers”
Now, I understand the Councilmember is running for Mayor.
Tom Goldstein, who is also running for Mayor, has made equally strong statements against the current proposal and process.
To Tom’s credit he has been consistent, vocal and the first candidate for Mayor to unequivocally state his opposition.
Both Councilmember Dai Thao and Tom Goldstein are likely to receive significant praise from the growing thousands of neighbors who are opposing this project because of their willingness to take a stand.
They deserve, rightfully, to receive that praise because of the courage of their voices and their commitment to taking a public stand.
In the city’s current insidious electoral process called Ranked Choice Voting I find some mild comfort that I may have a second choice in who I support for Mayor.
My first choice is Pat Harris. I am committed to that first choice support for Pat.
But the leadership shown by Councilmember Dai Thao and Tom Goldstein on the Ford site zoning plan have clearly given me reason to consider which of these two I may cast my second choice vote for in November.
I may not agree with all they say, and all they stand for, but on the Ford issue alone I applaud their courage and commitment to make it clear that neighbors opposing this project should have their voices of opposition respected.
There is a crack in the Council’s effort to show unified support against the community in their drive to pass the Ford site zoning plan as Councilmember Dai Thao has clearly showed.
There should be more cracks, one would hope, expressed publicly, in the days ahead.
Whether there are others with courage willing to step forward on the Council and say “Stop” or other political figures willing to do the same, remains to be seen.
I applaud Councilmember Dai Thao for lending his voice of opposition to this effort.
It is time for others to publicly join the fight to “Stop the Ford Plan. Rethink the Development.”