Surrounded by family and over 200 supporters, Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman announced that he will seek re-election as Mayor. The Mayor’s remarks focused on his successes in education, public safety, and investment, while pledging continued progress in Saint Paul.
Here is his re-election announcement, as prepared for delivery:
“Today I stand before you, surrounded by family, friends, supporters and colleagues, to announce that I will seek reelection as Mayor of the City of Saint Paul.
While all of you are equally important, some are more equal than others – Connie, Molly and Aidan. They have stood by me, from the early days of the last campaign and through the long nights that have kept me away from home too often. Molly has endured the embarrassment of her dad being asked to deliver the morning announcements at school – an offer I accepted but was promptly asked to reconsider. Aidan has patiently accepted that I have, on occasion, been a wee bit late picking him up after a hockey game. And of course, through it all, Connie has been the glue that has held us all together, even as she has tried to maintain her own career in a very tough environment for real estate.
Thank you so much for being by my side and keeping me humble.
I am proud to stand here alongside my colleagues on the council, the county board, the school board and in the legislature. Together, we have formed a strong bond over the past three years. We have worked hard to make sure that Saint Paul speaks with one voice. It is a voice that proclaims–loud and clear–that our city is strong and it is moving forward. To my partners in labor, education, neighborhood reinvestment, business, the arts and public safety, I am eternally grateful for your steadfast guidance through the challenges and opportunities we have faced over the last three years.
Governing in a democracy is never easy, but the immense challenges we face in 2009 present obstacles few of us have ever seen. At times such as these, it is more important than ever that we gather around a single table and listen to those who challenge us to lift our sights, expand our vision and, when necessary, adjust our course.
As Mayor—and more importantly as a life-long resident of this city–I know that the strength of Saint Paul comes from the very people who have entrusted me to lead.
As Mayor, I opened doors that had long been closed to those seeking a voice in the governance of this city – figuratively and literally. On my first day in office, we unlocked the front door and said “this is a place where all are welcome. All who believe in the future of our great city should be at the table.” And you came. You challenged us to do more than we imagined we could. And you committed to lend your strength to our common effort.
In thousands of ways, the people of Saint Paul have kept faith with our city. Dozens of residents came together on the banks of Lake Phalen last fall to painstakingly remove hateful graffiti from a stone sculpture. Moms and dads give countless hours to coach not just their children but thousands of other boys and girls picking up a bat or tying on skates for the first time. 1200 volunteers each year enable us to operate the incomparable facilities at Como Park and hundreds of others dedicate their free time to the libraries across the city. Others fix up houses, start businesses, and form block clubs.
Saint Paul is a great city because all of you work so hard to make it so.
I seek reelection at a time of great uncertainty. The severity of the economic crisis becomes more apparent every day – mounting national debt, ponzi schemes and predatory lending practices – encouraged by short-sighted political strategies threaten the very foundation of our community. A bungled response to Katrina and inadequate responses to financial crisis across the country have shaken our national confidence.
One of the most significant failures is the failure to invest in our nation’s cities. Our metropolitan areas drive our national economy and hold the key to our ability to compete in this new century. I have stood with Mayors across the state and country to advocate for critical investments in education and job training, infrastructure and innovation, new forms of energy and the historic character of our most beloved neighborhoods.
When politicians said they support public safety but then took resources away from the local governments that provide it, I stood with our police officers and fire fighters and the people who depend on them.
When leaders proclaimed they want Minnesota to compete in a global economy but withheld the resources necessary to educate our children to succeed in that economy, I stood with our students and their teachers.
When others called our efforts to expand economic opportunity and protect the environment ‘wasteful spending,’ I stood for the future of our city.
What began as a whisper on the national stage three years ago reached a crescendo on November 4th when millions of Americans cast their vote for change. While that word means many things to many people, I believe that, at its core, the change that people voted for in November was a change in tone and a new level of accountability.
Three years ago, it was clear that it was:
* Time to rebuild our community by investing in our infrastructure, including a first-class transit system anchored by light rail.
* Time to renew our economy by growing green industries powered by new sources of energy.
* Time to shift from short term strategies to long term solutions.
* Time to recommit ourselves to the age-old values of education and hard work.
We were told the City had no role in education. But we know there is no greater responsibility for any society than the education of its children. Today we are providing early childhood education scholarships for hundreds of children. We are extending the learning day with new opportunities at libraries, recreation centers and with community partners.
We have even tackled the transportation challenges that were keeping far too many kids away from services critical to their success.
Three years ago, victims of domestic abuse had to navigate through a maze of law enforcement, medical and advocacy services for themselves and their families. Working with a broad coalition of agencies, we crossed jurisdictional lines, sought partnerships, and got the job done. Today, Bridges to Safety offers a warm, welcoming and safe one-stop for services that help address a serious threat to the public safety of our community.
For three years, we have fought hard to make sure Central Corridor becomes a reality. With our County and Regional partners, we have fought line-item vetoes, challenging funding formulas and disagreements among partners to move this project forward. Construction of the corridor will begin next year. Our city will take full advantage of the nearly billion-dollar public investment. With our philanthropic partners, we have sown the seeds for the type of neighborhoods we want to grow. We will make sure that the communities along the corridor thrive; and that we create new opportunities for the people who live and work there.
In spite of tough economic times, Saint Paul is moving forward.
* The Union Depot will not only be the first stop on the light rail line, but, it will host passengers boarding a new high speed train to Chicago.
* On the East Side, the 3M site is being re-envisioned as a campus for 21st century jobs.
* Pop, Meritage, and The Bulldog are but three of the exciting new places to go downtown.
* The Concrete and Grass and McNally River Rocks music festivals have drawn huge crowds and critical acclaim in just a few years.
* Rice Street boasts the new Winnipeg apartments with one of the city’s first green roofs while Payne Avenue sparkles with new vitality.
* No news has been more exciting recently than the announcement that Lund’s/Byerly’s plans to open a store in the new Penfield development.
Some of the challenges we have tackled are not fully resolved. But we have made important progress. Three years ago, we faced a massive structural budget deficit. We knew that it was time to stop kicking the problem down the road for someone else to fix. We asked for solutions from our residents and city staff. We sought advice and gained perspective from business, community and labor leaders. We didn’t just continue to do things because that’s how they were always done.
We found ways to deliver better service at a better price. When it was clear we would have to stop programming some of our recreation centers, we didn’t post a notice on the front door saying “sorry we’re closed.” We forged new partnerships with organizations that could use the facilities to provide better services to our residents.
Most importantly, we kept our word to be honest with the people of Saint Paul. We didn’t make false promises. We told the truth. We made tough choices. And our residents understand the need to build a strong foundation for the City we love.
They have made it clear they put a high priority on protecting our homes and our children. They depend on our parks and our libraries. They count on us to protect the institutions that make this a great place to live.
Our work in Saint Paul can be instructive to the Governor as he and the legislature struggle with the $5 billion problem the State faces. Look deep within your own structures to revamp how you do business. Ask tough questions. Don’t be afraid to talk to the men and women who do the work of our state, and listen to their advice. Be honest with the residents of Minnesota. Don’t tell them we can cut our way to greatness or they can have something for nothing. Understand that our State has been at its greatest when we have invested in our children, our infrastructure, and our quality of life. If we simply stare at our feet as we move forward, we shouldn’t be surprised when we run into a wall. But, if we plot a course to the horizon, Minnesota and cities throughout our State will achieve great things.
Many people have asked me what I enjoy most about being Mayor. I can honestly say it is the people I have met throughout Saint Paul.
There are many, many people and many stories that come to mind. But there is one incident I often reflect on—a moment that helps me remember what this job is all about.
A year or so ago, I was walking through my lobby to a meeting. There was a father standing there with his ten year old son. I introduced myself and asked him what was up. He told me that he had been called to school to get his son because he had gotten in a fight. After picking up his son up, he drove him to the corner of Franklin and Chicago where people were up to no good. Then he brought his son down to City Hall to see the Mayor’s office. He wanted his son to understand that there were two paths to choose from: one would lead to the streets, one to the heights of his community. I brought the young man into my office and had him sit in my chair while his dad proudly snapped pictures.
As they left, it was clear by the smile on the boy’s face that he would be heading down the right path. Having been shown a better way, he was going to take it.
Like the young boy, we know that there are two paths we can take. In the next several months, decisions made a mile north of here will determine if Saint Paul continues down the path to greatness.
In the midst of the Great Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt understood the incredible power of investment to move this country forward. In two weeks, a new President of the United States will take the oath of office – one who understands that investing in cities across America is the cure to the economic crisis facing our country. We in Saint Paul stand ready to do our part.
For the last three years, I have tried to lead this city by being honest with the people of Saint Paul and asking all of you to help me get where we need to go. I ask for reelection as Mayor because our work together is not finished. We have been tested and will be tested again. But we will stay the course….and our city will reach great heights.
- Mayor Chris Coleman