Endorsement: Chris Tolbert for Ward 3 on the St. Paul City Council

There are two candidates in St. Paul’s Ward 3: incumbent Chris Tolbert and challenger Patty Hartmann.

Chris Tolbert was first elected to the seat in 2011 and ran unopposed in 2015. For the last few years he’s been at the center of the sometimes contentious debate over the Ford site redevelopment (I might have predicted two years ago that development would be the hot button in this race rather than trash). Tolbert authored both the St. Paul $15 minimum wage and the sick and safe time ordinances. He was one of two council members to vote against Dai Thao’s proposal for a slower rollout of the wage increase for businesses with 100 or fewer employees.

Chris Tolbert seems fine. When you ask him a question, he gives unobjectionable answers that don’t make him look foolish. He is comfortingly mild and middle of the road. Honestly, in 2019 you don’t need to waste time falling in love with Chris Tolbert because his opponent is so obviously a trash fire.

At a candidate forum on October 1, Patty Hartmann answered a question about what the city could do to control climate change. After noting her opposition to St. Paul’s organized trash plan, she said:

“I think that in terms of the larger issues about temperature changes, I’m not sure. These are very gradual processes and I think there are a lot of scientists that are having difficulty agreeing on what we can do or when we’re going to see any kind of measurable impact so that we’ll know if what we’re doing even makes any sense.”

Hartmann is denying climate science here. We know climate change is caused by human activity and that stopping or reducing those activities is the key to combating climate change.

Why is Patty Hartmann running for City Council? She says “It really started when I got a postcard in the mail telling me that I was going to have to choose a new trash container.” No matter what your opinion is on the trash issue, I wouldn’t want a council member who ran for office primarily because they felt aggrieved by the city’s organized trash plan. I want someone with a wider perspective on the future of the city.

But it gets worse for Hartmann on the trash issue. At that October 1 candidate forum, she said the city’s contract with haulers was “being used as a ruse by the city” — as a scare tactic to convince residents to vote “yes” on the trash referendum. With complete confidence — and as a lawyer — she claimed that the city could easily get out of the $27 million contract.

“One thing I think the city should do is clear up the misinformation that it’s been pumping out there claiming that there’s going to have to be a $27 million tax hike for money that we don’t really need to pay to the haulers.”

Two weeks after Hartmann made these comments, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that St. Paul was obligated to pay out the contract regardless of the outcome of the trash referendum. If “no” prevails with voters, taxes will be raised to cover the $27 million.

Her answers to questions about bike safety emphasize the need to educate bikers. She thinks sidewalks should be optional, depending on the preference of the neighborhood. In responding to a question about helping the disabled, she stressed the need to keep taxes low and encourage volunteerism. When asked about helping young people of color, she said she believes it’s about connecting them to existing services rather than adding more.

Not only is Patty Hartmann just plain wrong about a lot of things, she’s shown that she doesn’t understand the issues and lacks any vision for the future of St. Paul.

Another candidate forum had been scheduled for October 23, but Patty Hartmann canceled. I can understand why she wouldn’t want to put another one of her trash answers on video.

The choice is clear: vote for Chris Tolbert in St. Paul’s Ward 3