This weekend an opinion piece was published in the Saint Paul Pioneer Press written by Ward 7 City Councilmember Jane Prince.
In her piece, which can be found here http://www.twincities.com/2017/09/24/jane-prince-a-view-of-the-ford-plan-from-st-pauls-east-side-why-not-a-citywide-economic-development-strategy/ Prince argues for slowing down the City Council’s planned September 27th vote on the Ford Site Zoning and Public Realm Master Plan.
She thoughtfully articulates that other parts of St. Paul stand to lose from the City’s ill-advised rush to zone the former Ford site, and along with it, the commitment of hundreds of millions of dollars of tax increment financing to support their vision.
A commitment of resources that will come at the expense of Prince’s Ward, and every other City Council Ward that will be deprived of resources so a mass density nightmare can be constructed in Ward Three.
Along with her concerns, and her support for an earlier call by the Pioneer Press Editorial Board that the City Council should delay its vote to permit greater public engagement, Prince also outlined some proposed changes she would like to see on the Ford Site Zoning and Public Realm Master Plan.
Even if Prince’s amendments were adopted it should require the entire Ford Site Zoning and Public Realm Master Plan, along with any amendments, to be resubmitted to the public for review and further scrutiny.
While I may not agree with many of her proposals I will say this: Prince has stepped forward to show what leadership means in a City Councilmember.
It is a remarkable thing, indeed, that two City Councilmembers who don’t even represent the Ward I live in have done more in two weeks to provide the leadership my own Councilmember can’t or won’t provide.
While my City Councilmember, Chris Tolbert, has simply followed the directions and advice of City Planning Staff, the Mayor and Ford Motor Company, City Councilmember Jane Prince and Dai Thao have listened to the voices of our community.
They have called on the City Council to delay this vote. They have offered their own thoughts and ideas on how they believe the proposal can be improved. They have echoed many of the same serious and legitimate concerns raised by those who live near the Saint Paul Ford site.
My City Councilmember?
When given the opportunity to dramatically address the shortcomings of this proposal he submitted an amendment to allow affirm developers can build 10 story buildings in exchange for a paltry addition of greenspace.
There was no effort to reduce the massive amounts of density. No amendment to deal with traffic. No commitment in an amendment to add more greenspace – or restore recreational fields for children.
Or any amendment that would demand Ford Motor Company clean 100% of the site they own to the state they found the land in before they polluted it over the 85 years they built cars in their factory.
Where Jane Prince has been a leader Chris Tolbert has been a follower.
This coming Wednesday it is obvious that the odds are stacked against the neighborhood and the tens of thousands of residents who oppose this pop culture urban planning fancy of Councilmember Tolbert and the City Staff who have created it.
Were there four votes to delay this vote we would have known it by the voice of Councilmember Chris Tolbert being the leader who called for it.
Yet, there is no voice from him.
Only the consent to follow the lead of others.
Except for those he was elected to serve.
Councilmember Jane Prince has a proposal.
A representative of Neighbors for a Livable St. Paul even presented a proposal in this opinion piece in the Pioneer Press http://www.twincities.com/2017/09/17/charles-hathaway-a-framework-for-the-ford-site-that-more-people-could-support/
Whether it is Prince’s proposal, Councilmember Dai Thao’s own proposal or Neighbors for a Livable St. Paul, this much is true: The vote scheduled for this Wednesday is an affront to the way democracy is supposed to work in St. Paul.
Lost amid the comforting words of Councilmember Tolbert and advocates of this plan that there have been ten years of debate on this property are the simple facts.
City leaders submitted one plan to the people of St. Paul after 10 years of meetings about the Ford site.
That one plan failed to address the concerns of thousands of citizens who rejected the essential elements that comprise the Ford Site Zoning and Public Realm Master Plan.
A plan that has failed to have any substantial public review since it was unveiled in November.
The Ford Site Zoning and Public Realm Master Plan fails every test of best practices of public process and public policy.
This Wednesday the City Council has two choices.
The first, is to follow those who Chris Tolbert has chosen to follow and pass the Ford Site Zoning and Public Realm Master Plan.
The second, is to follow those whose leadership has called upon them to delay this vote and give the people of our community the chance to make a bad plan a better plan for our future.
To lead or to follow.
Who will be the leader.
Who will be the follower.
We shall soon see.