November 7, 2005
Here's an interview we conducted with St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly late last week. This interview was originally scheduled to appear coutesy the local NNPA paper, but the responses arrived late.
Kelly, a professed Democrat, is in a high profile race against fellow Democrat Chris Coleman, who bested Kelly by a 2-1 margin in the September primary.
Kelly is known far and wide, for better or worse, for his lavish endorsement and embrace of President Bush over the choice of his own party. A pundit in a local paper has recently suggested Kelly would stand a better chance if he'd just formally switch parties, but the combative Kelly is still confident up the the eve of the city wide elections tomorrow. Here for our readers, in his own words:
St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly: Can he buy this election?
By Rashard Zanders
BlackLogic Staff Writer
Twin Cites, MN
1.) In your estimation, how will the voters of St. Paul respond November 8?
Kelly: Elections have consequences. And this one is no exception. I have kept every promise I made to voters when I ran in 2001. When I ran for office four years ago I said we would work together and build 5,000 new units of housing, reduce crime, and make a difference in St. Paul schools. We have done that and more amidst one of the toughest economic recessions in memory. In this campaign I have pledged to keep government spending at the rate of inflation over the next four years in order to keep our property taxes in the city affordable. With the energy price spike weve had this year -- gas north of $2.00 a gallon and the home heating oil season upon us for winter government needs to learn to live within its means just like families and senior citizens do.
2.) Many St. Paul area business leaders are actively involved in your campaign. How will there support translate into a victory over challenger Chris Coleman?
I am proud of the diverse group of supporters my candidacy has inspired. Among them, I count many, many, small, medium, and corporate business leaders who are actively involved in my campaign. I also have the endorsements of Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike. They are supporting me because of my commitment to encouraging their entrepreneurial spirit, my leadership to improve our commercial corridors, including our ethnic business corridors such as University Avenue, District de soli, and Selby Avenue, and my understanding that responsible tax policies will foster continued private investment in our City. They are supporting me because I believe their voice is an important one to be heard at city hall. I am proud of their support and I believe their efforts, along with many other supporters like the St. Paul and Minneapolis Police Federations and unions like Local 455 Steamfitters Pipefitters will help my campaign succeed in the election.
3.) Is their support a matter of believing the Kelly campaign can 'buy' this election?
Chris Coleman has been endorsed by several public employee unions who will have contracts before the City. I presume he would object to the premise of this question as much as I do. The support of any individual or organization is a reflection of their belief in your ideals, your vision and your leadership. I am proud of the support of those individuals because they believe in the vision of this Administration, and the direction of our City.
4.) How has the Kelly Administration improved the economic outlook for the city's nonwhite communities, particularly the African American and immigrant communities?
I hired the first African American Fire Chief. I hired an African American Police Chief. My record of support for minority hiring in the City, and my Administration's emphasis on improving culural diversity is historic.
For the last four years our Administration has worked day and night to improve St. Pauls safety and its affordability. We have completed our Housing 5,000 initiative which included building 1,000 units that are affordable for lower income and seniors living on a fixed income. We have focused on recruiting and retaining jobs in the city, and this year alone will add 2,300 additional jobs to our workforce. We have made doing business with the city more transparent and open to all for instance we passed an immigration ordinance which allows undocumented residents to report crimes without fear of retribution.
We have improved the diversity of our workforce nearly one in every four hires in city government is a person of color; we have 13 minority developers doing 90 million dollars worth of business in the city; and we dedicated two streets to legendary leaders of our minority communities, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez. When faced with thousands of new Hmong immigrants coming to our city, our administration led a delegation to Thailand to ensure our community was prepared for their arrival and ready to help in their transition to our community.
5.) The courts recently dismissed without prejudice a suit by Black businessmen about the City's record on chapter 84. How does this make you feel, in the context of Housing 5000 and other initiatives you've led?
My administration has worked tirelessly over the course of the last four years to make our development processes open, transparent, competitive, and fair for everyone. We have set goals, and invested significant time and resources to ensure those goals are met. And, while I am proud of the progress we have made so far, as indicated by recent court action which will allow us to bring more minorities onto to our Firefighters ranks, I believe we can do better, and I am committed to doing just that.
6.) How has this mayoral administration improved St. Paul over the last four years?
We have made significant strides over the last four years in bringing more jobs to St. Paul, completing 5,000 units of housing where 1,000 of those units are affordable for lower income populations, reduced crime by double digits, brought 2,100 volunteers into our schools to help our children read and worked to close the achievement gap between white students and students of color. This administration has handled challenging budget times, without sacrificing important quality of life investments in our parks, libraries and community centers. And, we have also completed innovative initiatives like our Bioscience Corridor, the Conservatory for Performing Arts, and consolidating our communications center with Ramsey County.
7.) Given President Bush's ongoing problems with the Special Prosecutor Fitzerald, the Supreme Court, crisis management, et al., does the Mayor still stand by this administration?
People who do not tell the truth, need to be held accountable for their actions. I applaud the efforts of the Special Counsel. Unlike Chris Coleman who has run against candidates of his own political party time after time after time -- only to then, when his political career is on the line, apologize for running against them -- I stand by my principles. While I do not agree with every decision of this Administration, I will not backtrack on my principles.
8.) Are there any criticisms of the President that the Mayor finds valid?
I have long said I personally disagree with the Presidents position on gay marriage. And, I do believe that overall the federal government response to Hurricane Katrina could have been substantially more effective.
9.) How can Black contractors get jobs with the city that are not subcontracted through larger companies and developers?
First, our Administration has made the entire process more open, transparent and competitive. Any contractor can register as a vendor with the City of Saint Paul. I am committed to making sure that minority contractors take advantage of these opportunities, and if we discover more minority contractors would participate if we invested in educational forums or streamlined registration, I pledge to support those efforts. We have taken the lead on a metro area examination of disparities in the treatment of minorities businesses and will particpate in the remediation efforts needed. We make available $250,000 every year for minority business capacity building, and we support the construction partnership program which formally links minority businesses to joint ventures, partnerships and mentoring opportunities with large general contractors. Currently the city supports minority contractors through our construction partnership program and our joint ventures initiatives.
10.) What in closing would you like to say to our readers before the election? (Space for you to account for your administration).
This election does have consequences. If you believe that Saint Paul has made remarkable strides over the last four years, that our priorities of making this community more safe, more affordable, and more livable are moving this city in the right direction, then I urge you to get out and vote for me on November 8th. If you value my commitment to job creation, transportation, arts and culture, and responsible tax policy, then I urge you to get out and vote for me on November 8th.
Because if you do not vote, or if you decide partisanship is more important than partnership, my friends our city will look a great deal different four years from now. My opponent has promised things only your tax dollars can deliver. Under my opponents leadership our city will take a drastically different path to greater taxes and less accountability. Gone will be the confidence and hope that inspires the kind of private and public sector development and investment that makes a community thrive. I urge you to choose wisely.