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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

St. Paul / Politics changed; she didn't follow

Please click onto the COMMENTS for the story.

6 Comments:

Blogger Bob said...

Groundbreaking council member laments leaving post
BY JASON HOPPIN
Pioneer Press
Article Last Updated: 12/24/2007 09:08:12 PM CST


In the end, the trendsetter lost because she misread the trends.

Outgoing St. Paul City Council Member Debbie Montgomery has always broken barriers. She was the first woman to walk a beat as a St. Paul police officer.

She was a legendary athletic figure at Central Senior High School, scrimmaging against the likes of Dave Winfield. As a teenager, she was active in the NAACP, which brought her in contact with civil rights figures such as Roy Wilkins and Thurgood Marshall.

And she is the first black woman to serve on the St. Paul City Council. She is not leaving because of her personality - spend an hour with Montgomery and you will be bombarded with stories, ranging from the sad to the profane - but because she wasn't politically nimble enough when the sands began shifting under her feet.

In a recent interview in her City Council office - the shelves cleared of the pictures of her children and the one of her posing with Barack Obama - Montgomery recounted her four years in office.

"I did exactly what my community asked me to do, and I think that's the hard part," Montgomery said. "I tried working with all of my constituents, to respond to all of them."

Constituencies are always a tricky business in the city's 1st Ward, which covers Summit-University, Ramsey Hill, Frogtown and the Midway area. With a constituency of different languages, ethnicities and income levels, competing interests are practically a given.

And despite traditional representation by moderate Democatic-Farmer-Labor Party members, the ward might be one of the most liberal in the city.
"You could make that argument," said Dan McGrath, executive director of the progressive political action group TakeAction Minnesota.

On divided votes, Montgomery, 61, usually sided with the city's more conservative bloc. That handed her opponent, 28-year-old Melvin Carter III, opportunities to differentiate himself from Montgomery, especially on issues such as the city's smoking ban, which Montgomery opposed.

Beating Montgomery was no easy feat. Her roots lie deep: She has lived on Central Avenue for more than 40 years. As a girl, she witnessed the destruction of the city's thriving black Rondo neighborhood firsthand when her family was forced to sell its home for the construction of Interstate 94, their apple trees uprooted and paved over.

Montgomery faltered at April's DFL Ward convention, and Carter, a former track athlete, picked up the baton and cruised to an easy election victory.

Montgomery had relied partly on operatives aligned with Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher, whose political influence outweighs his office and whose support has always been stronger in the suburbs than in St. Paul.

The suburbs helped Montgomery put together the biggest election war chest in St. Paul City Council history, more than $127,000. But suburban voters, no matter how deep their pockets, do no good in a city race when Election Day finally rolls around.

It's been a continuing lesson in St. Paul politics in recent years - money might matter, but not as much as you'd think. In the 2005 mayoral primary vote, incumbent Randy Kelly had not only outraised Chris Coleman by a 4-1 margin, he had 16 times as much money in the bank: $400,000 vs. $25,000, according to campaign filings.

But when the voters had their say, Kelly finished much closer to third place than to first.

Montgomery says she accomplished much, from the continuing redevelopment at University Avenue and Lexington Parkway to the Rondo Library for Community Outreach to the Midway SuperTarget to the soon-to-be opened Jimmy Lee Recreation Center across from her alma mater, Central High.

"It was exhilarating. It was rewarding in the sense that I was getting stuff done that the community asked to be done," Montgomery said. "My community said, 'We want jobs and economic development. We need quality mixed-income housing and we need safe streets.' " But some deals never were realized. A proposed $50 million Frogtown recreation center, paid for partly through the estate of McDonald's heiress Joan B. Kroc, fell through.

Though Montgomery didn't mention the Kroc Center specifically, she did express frustration that her efforts to piece together developments - such as the so-called "bus barn" site at Interstate 94 and Snelling Avenue - didn't bear more fruit. Other than City Council President Kathy Lantry, Montgomery probably spent more time at City Hall than any other council member.

Any frustration, she said, comes from "just (trying) to get other governmental units to work with the city to get some economic development done. It shouldn't be this hard."

9:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is not why she lost. What a bunch of crap!

11:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't see how the term 'dumb bitch', adds to the conversation Bob.

You excercised censorship a couple of posts ago when the poster called you names. Send this one (7:37) back until this guy learns how to talk.

Debbie problem was that she was not very good at constituent relations.

On the other hand, she worked harder than anyone to bring businesses in. In four years that area has gotten so much better.

Conclusion: Know your audience. If they want more show and less 'go', then give it to them.

Melvin is a good progressive who won't let slum lords thrive.

10:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well we shall see if Melvin tries to stop the city illegal actions and start doing thing within the law. The way they are going now, they just keep creating a bigger pool of plaintiffs for future lawsuits.

10:37 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

I don't recall anyone calling me any names. I deleted post recently that were OFF TOPIC. I requested the poster email me his or her topic.

I never had any response other than more OFF TOPIC attacks on me from I am assuming the same anonymous poster.

I don't appreciate 7:37 insulting the council woman.

I deleted the post. It was uncalled for.

11:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think she took her job of representing people seriously, and I'm glad she's out of there.

3:38 PM  

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