Melvin Carter

Melvin Carter

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter looks to replicate last year’s unanimous budget approval after his 2020 budget address on Aug. 15. 

Carter proclaimed the budget as a “values document” where it explicitly states and accounts for St. Paul community members and their priorities.

“How you spend your money is the clearest illustration of what you value,” Carter said referring to early teachings from his parents. “Our mantra here is if our budget doesn’t reflect our values, then they’re not our values.”

While constructing the 2020 budget, Carter had a deliberate community approach. In the preceding three months, he went to various coffee shops, schools, libraries, breweries among other locations in St. Paul neighborhoods to inform and take suggestions for the budget. Despite it being more than a $17 million increase from the 2019 budget, Carter opened up the floor for community members to work on tradeoffs for budget suggestions to work financially. Also, over a hundred people from St. Paul neighborhoods have volunteered to work on the proposal to reinforce equity within the budget.

“We have to figure out how to do this balancing act,” Carter said. “You can’t just cut your way to prosperity; we have to be willing to make investments.”

One of those investments in the budget is an emphasis on housing the rapidly growing diverse population. The St. Paul population has added more than 24,000 people since the 2010 census and it is projected to add another 30,000 over the next 30 years.

“There’s an exciting and vibrant thing happening in St. Paul,” Carter said. “If we’re going to house 30,000 more people than we’ve ever had in the city ever, we’re going to have to think about building up a little higher, some of our buildings are going to have to be a little taller, we’re going to have to think about density. We might need new busses and transit and bike lanes.”

The St. Paul community will also continue to see a focus on ensuring a solid foundation for the youth to prosper in the future. Carter knows that natural amenities, parks and trails, transit, diversity, education, a solid economy and a safe place to start a family are all things that need to prioritize and build for the generations to come. Carter is also working on an initiative called “College Bound St. Paul” where the goal is to start a college savings account for every newborn that starts with a $50 investment.

“Mostly, my vision for St. Paul is irrelevant. What’s relevant is when my children get to the age and get the point where they have to decide where they’ll plant their business and their families,” he said. “Youth development is not one of the things (that is important to me), it’s the only thing.”

Now that Carter has presented his budget, he and the St. Paul City Council will have negotiations and will have to reach an agreement for the budget by the end of the year.

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