Since St. Paul’s founding, St. Paul has been a city full of people who came seeking a better life.
As St. Paul experiences a renewed growth and vitality, it is also changing – in fundamental and irrevocable ways – as children of color fill the city’s classrooms and playgrounds, and as those children grow up, pursue careers, have families, and begin creating lives for themselves.
St. Paul is a diverse city, and it is growing more diverse every year. And yet, that diversity has never been reflected in the background and life experience of those making decisions at City Hall. For all the progressive values and historical accomplishments the city can tout, St. Paul is still sorely lacking in true representation at the highest levels of city government.
Some will say that diversity does not matter; that any person, regardless of race, gender, income, or background, could do the job, as long as that person has good intentions.
To that we say this.
It was men with good intentions, but a lack of understanding, who built a freeway through the historic Rondo Neighborhood and decimated St. Paul’s African-American community.
Even now, candidates in the race for St. Paul mayor are proposing adding dozens more police officers to patrol our streets without critical reforms to ensure they protect, and respect, Black lives. That is because, despite their good intentions, they lack a fundamental understanding of our struggle, and the times in which we live.
Especially now, when the values we hold most dear – equality, freedom, respect and the right to pursue happiness – are under constant assault from a hostile president who believes police brutality is a joke, the time has long since come for new leadership.
For fresh ideas and a more inclusive vision for our city, the choice is clear. We endorse Melvin Carter as our first choice for St. Paul mayor.
Carter has spent his entire career fighting for those left in the shadows, leaving a profitable career in the private sector to dedicate himself to public service. He trained movement leaders with Wellstone Action and fought for more train stops on the Green Line as a community activist. As a city councilmember, Carter guided his constituents through the worst of the Great Recession, helped pass Ban the Box legislation statewide, and built the St. Paul Promise Neighborhood from the ground up.
As the director of Gov. Mark Dayton’s Minnesota Children’s Cabinet, Carter built consensus for early education in a legislative session where leaders agreed on little else, and secured hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for kids and families across the state.
Carter is also a tested leader who has been vetted and questioned more closely than any other candidate in the race. Does he have the experience? Yes, in spades. Is he too ambitious? Shouldn’t all our sons and daughters be more ambitious than the world we live in would prefer? Doesn’t he know he should wait his turn, and know his place? We have heard this before – and we know what it means.
Though his qualifications are thorough and his experience deep, Carter’s background lends a perspective few can match. He grew up in a family that has endured generations of discrimination, from first settling in St. Paul after fleeing racial violence in the South to losing everything in the destruction of Rondo. Carter was raised by a family – but more importantly, an entire community – that turned the pain of loss into dreams for the future. A son not just of St. Paul, but of Old Rondo, now stands poised to make those dreams a reality.
St. Paul has been served well by smart, qualified, sensible, and compassionate mayors over the years. But no St. Paul mayor has ever known what it feels like to be pulled over by a police officer without committing a crime. No previous mayor could understand, at a visceral level, the fear of being denied a service or housing, or experiencing violence, or simply enduring the unwarranted suspicion of others, based on the color of their skin.
We cannot change the past. What we can do is elect diverse, inclusive leaders at all levels of government. We can make choices that serve to reconcile historic trauma while sending a clear message to the next generation that the highest office in St. Paul is not beyond their reach.
Nov. 7 is coming. Do your research on the candidates and issues, yes, but also take some time to reflect upon what legacy we want to leave our children.
Then proceed to vote for Melvin Carter as your first choice for the next mayor of St. Paul.