Endorsement: Terri Thao and Nelsie Yang for Ward 6 on the St. Paul City Council

There are six candidates in St. Paul’s Ward 6: incumbent Kassim Busuri, Alexander Bourne, Greg Copeland, Danielle Swift, Terri Thao, and Nelsie Yang.

Three of these candidates are very bad news.

Kassim Busuri just outright lied to get appointed to the City Council. One of the requirements of getting appointed to fill the empty seat was a promise not to run for re-election as an incumbent. Busuri promised the city council during a job interview that he would not run, and just a few months later began his re-election campaign. So you have to wonder how many lies Busuri thinks he can get away with telling voters in order to win a full term.

Shortly after his appointment to the City Council, it came to light that Busuri had written a series of homophobic social media posts. Here’s the worst one:

Instead of apologizing — or explaining how young and thoughtless he was during the years 2013-2015 — Busuri put out this odd statement.

Ask yourself what kind of leader do you believe our community should have?  One who wraps themselves in a rainbow flag, a person-of-color flag, or whatever the flag-of-the-day is for political gain or one who acts in the best interest of humanity and is willing to give of their life for another.

Under normal circumstances I don’t think Busuri would be taken very seriously. He’s assuring voters that they can vote to reject the trash ordinance and not have their taxes go up (similar to Patty Hartmann). But the one thing he has going for him as a candidate is that he lied to get appointed to this seat — so now he can campaign as the incumbent.

Alexander Bourne isn’t a serious candidate. Naomi Kritzer has compiled a long list of additional red flags: “Repeated domestic violence charges: WHOA.

Greg Copeland is a shouty Republican. I’ll let Naomi Kritzer tell his story too. I find him to be the living embodiment of a Southwest Minneapolis yard sign.

Danielle Swift seems thoughtful and involved in the community. But I don’t think she’s anywhere near as prepared to be a city council member as the top two candidates. As first reported by Naomi Kritzer, Swift’s website is weirdly incomplete, with issue buttons that don’t link you anywhere.

St. Paul’s Ward 6 comes down to Terri Thao and Nelsie Yang. There isn’t a big difference in the way they present themselves on the issues. Thao was able to point to her consistent “yes” position on the organized trash referendum. Yang recently waffled on trash, before committing to yes. On the issue of single-family zoning, the two candidates didn’t disagree; but Thao got a lot more specific on her vision, saying she would support fourplexes and accessory dwelling units citywide. Thao responded to the Neighbors for More Neighbors questionnaire; Yang didn’t. (full disclosure: I am a co-founder of that organization).

Nelsie Yang has a lot of endorsements, is an organizer at Take Action MN and seems very well-regarded within the progressive community in the Twin Cities. She appears to have built a juggernaut of a city council campaign, with a wide base of support (including raising $95,000). That’s a giant accomplishment, leaving little doubt she’s an outstanding organizer. Yang has one endorsement that I find particularly persuasive: Ward 4 Council Member Mitra Jalali Nelson, someone who I have endless respect for. If Mitra wants to work with Nelsie Yang, I want that too. So before watching the Ward 6 candidate forum I suspected I’d probably favor Yang.

It turns out that Terri Thao is an exceptional candidate. She’s selling herself as experienced and able to hit the ground running. I’m convinced. She gives very specific, direct, and knowledgeable answers to questions. I appreciate the rare kind of candidate whose answers make me feel like I’m learning something (instead of thinking to myself of the answer they probably should have given instead). Terri Thao is such a candidate. She knows things! And can help others understand those things!

Before running for city council, Thao served nine years on the St. Paul Planning Commission, and has a substantial list of other boards and organizations she’s been involved with, dealing with issues relevant to the work of a council member.

Voters in St. Paul’s Ward 6 should rank Terri Thao first, Nelsie Yang second, and — to be safe — rank Danielle Swift third. Then you should go home very proud of yourself for preventing any of the three disastrous candidates from slipping through.