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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Harris says no fourth term on St. Paul City Council

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5 Comments:

Anonymous Pioneer Press said...

Retirement could be first test of new voting system
By Dave Orrick
dorrick@pioneerpress.com
Updated: 01/10/2011 11:58:28 PM CST


After three terms in office, St. Paul City Council member Pat Harris said Monday that he won't seek another one in the fall.

"It's 100 percent to spend more time with my family," Harris, whose third child was born two months ago, told the Pioneer Press.

"I always looked at myself as a citizen legislator, and I'm extremely proud of what I've done. But I have three small children, and I really want to spend more time with them and my wife."

Harris' departure will likely precipitate a scrum of candidates vying for what will be the only open seat on the council during the city's first foray into a new method of voting.

The DFL Party's precinct caucuses, where most potential candidates are vetted in the Democrat-dominated town, are scheduled for Feb. 8, and Harris' Highland Park-based ward has no shortage of politically active residents.

John Mannillo, a downtown building owner and fixture of local politics, announced his candidacy last week, but few expect he'll be alone. As Mannillo made his announcement, other hopefuls — and would-be candidate recruiters — waited for Harris to decide whether to run for re-election.

All six other city council members have said they're running for re-election.

Harris took office in 2000, filling the seat left vacant when his brother, Mike Harris, decided not to run again.

This year will be different from any other because the city is implementing ranked-choice voting, also known as instant-runoff voting, or IRV. Under IRV, voters rank choices for an office, and the traditional measure for winning — the candidate with the most votes — doesn't necessarily apply so simply.

Juggling family and work has been especially challenging for Harris, 44, who is the only council member to hold a full-time job outside the elected post.

"I think the schedule of an elected official is always challenging, regardless of whether you have another job, but yes, it's been a challenge for me for sure," said the father of a 4-year-old boy, a 22-month-old girl and an 8-week-old boy. "My wife and my employer have been very flexible, and I'm grateful to them for that."

7:25 AM  
Anonymous story continued said...

Harris works as a vice president for RBC Global Asset Management, a position that reveals perhaps his greatest attribute on the council: financial expert.

It's a role he's proud of.

"I've tried really hard to be fiscally responsible and socially responsible," he said. "I've found ways to increase the number of police officers and firefighters within our budget means. I think what people want in government is citizen leaders who bring their professional expertise to bear to solve problems."

With a civically active household — his wife, Laura, is a training and conferences manager at the League of Minnesota Cities — Harris said he's hardly retiring from public engagement.

"Would I be interested in ever running for elected office again? Yeah," he said.

At this point, Harris said, he doesn't plan to get involved in the fight over his seat. Should he remain on the sidelines, that might allow the Third Ward race to illuminate the ramifications of IRV for St. Paul.

IRV works like this: Primaries are eliminated for mayor and city council races. School board races — as well as county, state and federal races — are conducted as usual.

Voters select their first-choice candidate for any seat and, if they wish, their second choice, third choice and so on. St. Paul will likely offer the chance to rank up to six candidates.

The elections system tallies all the first-choice votes. If one candidate receives a majority, she or he wins and it's over. But if no one has a majority — as is more likely the more crowded a field is — the "instant runoff" kicks in. The second choice on the last-place candidate's ballots gets those votes. The process continues until a candidate has more than 50 percent of the total votes cast.

No one knows exactly how the process will affect the hopes of lesser-known candidates who often have populated the fringes of St. Paul ballots, but in general, it's viewed as a more inclusive system that doesn't penalize voters who want to support a third-party candidate.

As the DFL endorsement process gets under way, it's possible the party will rapidly rally behind a single candidate and other hopefuls will be scared away. Or, without an heir apparent, it's possible any number of candidates, both Democratic and other, might stick it out on the ballot.

7:26 AM  
Blogger Swiftee said...

Harris looks out over the rutted, ruined streets, the empty downtown, the vacant houses and says "Yup, my work here is done!"

1:24 PM  
Blogger Swiftee said...

Wait a minute; I had missed this: ""I've found ways to increase the number of police officers and firefighters within our budget means."

Pffft..Bwaaahahahahahahahahaha 42% increase in taxes in 6 years is "within his means"..hahahahaha
hahahahahahahaahahahaaaaaa!

1:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yuo.....Swiftee's got it right! Somany cities left to destroy and such little time left. Time to move on.

6:21 PM  

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