St. Paul mayoral candidates address neighborhood inequities, subsidies and education


It would be an understatement to say the ballot for the St. Paul mayoral race is little full. 

This cycle’s race includes 10 candidates, including a current St. Paul City Council member, two former council members, a perennial candidate, a real estate investor, a former St. Paul School Board member, a Green Party-endorsed candidate and a couple new faces.

The Review asked the candidates via email why they are running, what skills and experiences they will bring to office, what they believe to be the top challenges the City of St. Paul faces, and what issues or projects they would prioritize if elected.

Candidates Trahern Crews and Barnabas Joshua Y’shua did not respond to the Review’s questionnaire.


 Sharon Anderson, who did not provide her age, has run in a number of city, state and federal races over the years and lives on the East Side. When asked why she is running, she said she wants to “expose [the] city’s corrupt ponzi taxing schemes” and abolish the Department of Safety and Inspections. 

Anderson said the top challenges she sees facing the city include a balanced budget, downsizing departments and police brutality.

If elected, Anderson said she would prioritize changing the voting system so voters would be able to vote via PDFs, police protection during the upcoming Super Bowl, making the Ford Plant site a casino, taxing all nonprofits, stopping payments to private attorneys and using the mayor’s veto power on unconstitutional city resolutions.


 Melvin Carter, 38, lives in the Frogtown neighborhood with his wife and children. Carter has a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

He said his experiences from representing Ward 1 for five years on the city council, as well as serving as the executive director of the Minnesota Children’s Cabinet, will help him in office. He adds that as a city council member, he helped to form the city’s Department of Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity, founded the St. Paul Promise Neighborhood program for low-income families and fought for additional Green Line stops in Frogtown.

Carter said he is running for office because he wants to “build a St. Paul that works for everyone, not just those we’re used to seeing succeed,” adding the city needs “a mayor with a bold vision for St. Paul’s future.”

He said one of the top challenges he sees facing the city is its rapid growth and making sure the growth benefits everyone in the city, “regardless of ZIP code or the color of their skin.” He said this can be managed by investing in schools, recreation centers and neighborhoods.

If elected, Carter said he would prioritize a city that works for everyone by investing in education, strong neighborhoods, more affordable housing and “greater opportunities” to start and run a business.

“We know that if St. Paul is going to continue to grow and thrive, we need bold new leadership in City Hall,” Carter said.


 Elizabeth Dickinson, 57, lives on the city’s West Side with her husband. She is a life coach, presenter and landlord. She said she brings a skill set that includes community organizing, lobbying, management, problem-solving and counseling. She earned a master’s degree from Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in psychology.

Dickinson said she is running “because it’s the most meaningful contribution I can make to a city and people I have come to love.” She added that she would make a commitment to “help heal social, racial, economic and environmental inequalities” in the city while holding the line on property taxes and promoting the city’s underappreciated assets.

Dickinson said the top challenges she sees the city facing include mobilizing all aspects of the community to address inequities while finding “necessary resources without increasing property taxes beyond inflation indexing.” She also sees the need to lift burdens placed on new businesses by “removing red tape and removing unnecessary bureaucracy.” She said a final challenge would be implementing a voluntary program in which universities and  medical institutions provide payments and/or services, in lieu of taxes, to create “productive partnerships” with the community, resulting in a rebranding of the city and more business development.

If elected, Dickinson said she would prioritize raising the minimum wage over four-to-seven years to bring people out of poverty, with a longer phase-in and small business protections. She said she would also prioritize energy and environmental concerns, including sustainability at the Ford Plant site and promoting walking, biking and electric vehicles. She added she would promote transparency and more engagement with the mayor’s office. She would also prioritize community policing and adjusting how police are trained to include more de-escalation techniques, cultural competency, implicit/explicit bias training and relationship skill-building. She would also prioritize the school system, by expanding restorative justice circles and providing youth training jobs through Right Track.


 Tom Goldstein, 60, lives in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood and has a juris doctorate from the William Mitchell College of Law. He is a self-employed businessman and lawyer. He said his skills from being a lawyer, a former St. Paul Public School Board member, community activist, labor organizer and legislative aide make him qualified to be mayor. 

Goldstein said he is running for mayor “to change the status quo,” pointing out, “St. Paul needs a leader willing to put the needs of the community before the interests of lobbyists and developers who wield so much influence at City Hall.”

He said the top challenges he sees the city facing include disparities in wealth that contribute to high youth unemployment, a lack of affordable housing, homelessness, and the increase in gang and gun violence. Goldstein said these challenges can be answered by making pre-k and after-school activities available to all families, providing more job training for at-risk youth, tailoring education to align with career opportunities, implementing community policing and updating the city’s livable wage ordinance to include all large employers

If elected, Goldstein said he would prioritize multiple issues and projects, which he’s outlined in his “Blueprint for a Better St. Paul” plan. The plan focuses on economic development, livable neighborhoods, educational equity, government accountability and addressing citywide poverty.

“To compete in the 21st century, St. Paul needs a bold, sustainable vision that includes greater educational opportunities for those seeking to enter the workforce; multiple affordable housing options; proper maintenance of our basic infrastructure; expanded recreational amenities; and investments in the kind of technological innovations — such as high-speed internet — that will attract the companies and entrepreneurs creating the high-paying jobs of tomorrow,” he said.


 Pat Harris, 51, lives with his wife and kids near the Mac-Groveland neighborhood. He is currently the senior vice president of government banking at BMO Harris Bank and has a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Minnesota.

Harris said his experience as a St. Paul City Council member for 12 years, his service on numerous community boards, his nearly two decades of public finance experience and numerous community service awards “uniquely qualifies” him to be mayor. 

Harris said he is running because “I believe St. Paul is a place where people can achieve their dreams.” He said he has “spent a lifetime making things work in St. Paul” and wants to continue doing so as mayor.

The top challenges Harris sees the city facing include public safety, the city’s financing, citywide infrastructure, growth of the local economy and education. He said, “neighborhoods require attention from City Hall to move the community forward.”

If elected, Harris said he would prioritize public schools by bringing additional funds to the classrooms through an energy savings partnership, bringing St. Paul Public Libraries into the schools and “bringing key city resources directly to our young people.” Harris said he would create jobs with an access-to-capital program that would lend to small businesses, with up to $100 million in targeted neighborhoods, without using property taxes. He also said he would prioritize making sure the police and fire departments are fully staffed and funded, and reflect the diversity of the city.


 Chris Holbrook, 46, lives in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood with his wife and works as senior sales leader for a building materials wholesaler. He has an associates degree in architectural technology from Milwaukee Area Technical College. He said the skills he would bring to office include critical thinking and “the ability to do math.”

Holbrook said he is running for the mayor’s seat to lower property taxes, adding that he challenges the other candidates to pledge to lower property taxes by $1 million for each percent of the top-line ranked-vote he receives.

The top challenges Holbrook sees facing the city include “out of control property tax increases caused by mismanagement of priorities, overspending on projects and overregulation of people and businesses.” 

If elected, Holbrook said he would prioritize lowering property taxes and to create an equitable focus on all neighborhoods in the city. He said he would also “supervise supervisors and ban bans.”


 Tim Holden, 48, lives in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood and works as a licensed general contractor and real estate investor. He has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from St. Cloud State University, is a certified peace officer and has a real estate license.

Holden said the skillset he would bring to office includes common sense skills of dealing with people and businesses and creating commerce, which he says the city needs to solve its other problems. 

Holden said he is running for the mayor’s seat to “save the city.”  He said the city needs to start “looking out for the small person” instead of subsidizing soccer stadiums and places like the Palace Theater. He added that he wants to create a better education environment for kids and to make St. Paul safer. He also wants to address campaign finance reform.

The top problems Holden sees the city facing include poverty, safety and education. He said she sees commerce, jobs and poverty being linked and that the city needs to put people back to work by cutting regulations. He said the biggest problem in the city he sees are subsidies. He said the city has created a precedent for subsidies and that the city needs to get out of the way to create a competitive market.

If elected, Holden said he would prioritize the people by giving them a voice, which he said hasn’t happened for 12 years. He said he would prioritize saving St. Paul.


 Dai Thao, 42, lives in the Frogtown neighborhood with his wife and family. He currently works as an IT manager for Greater Crisis Nursery and is the current St. Paul City Council member for Ward 1. He earned certifications for Microsoft Server 2008, is Microsoft Professional Certified and has Citrix Administration Certifications from Benchmark Learning Center.

Thao said he brings a wide set of skills from his experiences of serving as a city council member, IT manager, community organizer and as a Port Authority Commissioner. He said his other skills include being able to “organize across race, faith, gender and neighborhoods.” He gives the example of leading the creation of a civilian review board for the police department, and leading the effort for organized trash collection. He also led redevelopment efforts for the new soccer stadium, the Treasure Island Center in downtown St. Paul and the new police training facility.

Thao said he is running because the city is at a “pivotal moment” and that the city needs leadership “that stands with regular people.” He said he wants to prevent taxing “the hard working people of St. Paul to solve wasteful spending,”  to make sure city services are used “efficiently and equitably in all of St. Paul’s neighborhoods,” and to address racial disparities.

Thao said the top challenges he sees the city facing include fixing the budget gap without raising taxes, bringing businesses back to St. Paul by making it an easy place to start and run a business, and fixing income and racial disparities in the city.

If elected, Thao said the issues he would prioritize include “protecting people, promoting equity” and preserving St. Paul’s heritage. He said he would do this by “creating a culture of efficiency and accountability in City Hall, investing in people with education and family support services,” such as all-day pre-k, and supporting the growth and expansion of businesses in the technology sector.


Election Day is Nov. 7.


Marjorie Otto can be reached at 651-748-7816 or at Follow her on Twitter at @EastSideM_Otto

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