John Nephew

Maplewood City Council Policy & Politics


Friday, June 29, 2007

AFSCME Endorsement

I'm very pleased to report that I've been endorsed by AFSCME Council 5, the Minnesota branch of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.

Getting an endorsement first involves filling out a written questionnaire. Then you go in front of a screening committee, whose members grill you with questions ("What is your name? What is your quest? What is the airspeed velocity of a unladen swallow?" etc.). Never having been screened for endorsement before, I of course had my worries about being cast into the Gorge of Eternal Peril if I didn't know the right answers, but my fears were entirely unfounded. In fact, I enjoyed the experience.

AFSCME is the union that represents most employees of the city of Maplewood. Its members are in a position to be especially well informed about what's been going wrong in Maplewood, and motivated to help fix it. Repairing the damage that has been done to Maplewood will require a strong and positive collaboration between the council and city employees, AFSCME members and otherwise. Thus I was eager to meet with AFSCME, and I am proud and excited to have their support for my candidacy.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Fundraising Milestone

I just returned from city hall. Michelle and I went there to accompany my treasurer, Jeff Tidball, as he exercised his first official duty in that capacity: turning in our campaign's first finance report.

At the start of the day on Thursday, June 14th, my campaign contribution tally stood at $615. The way the campaign finance law works in Minnesota, once you pass $750 in fundraising or expenditures, you have 14 days to file your first campaign finance report. Rather than seeing that as an annoying regulation, I wanted to put it to use as a strategic opportunity.

I set an ambitious goal for myself for that two-week window. I wanted to report at least $5,000 in funds raised and as many individual contributors as possible. The document we just turned in to the city clerk shows $5,698 in total contributions received, as of 2:15 this afternoon, from sixty-nine different individuals.

I am grateful to everyone who has contributed, and humbled by your generosity. Thank you so much for your encouragement and your confidence in me, and for supporting my campaign for positive change in our city.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Our Great Trees

Back in April, when we went to the Nature Center celebration, we picked up a kit for measuring trees and submitting them to the "Great Tree Search." Ostensibly this is a contest to find the biggest tree in Maplewood, but I think it's really about recruiting volunteers to document some of our city's oldest and most treasured trees.

One of the reasons we picked our house back in 2001 was because of its many trees. They are not only beautiful and majestic, but they provide wonderful shade, making it more pleasant to be outside in the yard in the heat of summer and also keeping our cooling bills lower. Trees are a multifaceted asset: ecological, environmental, economic — and just plain nice to have around.

This week we finally pulled out the kit from the nature center and took measurements of our four trees we judged to be the largest. Michelle and I figured out a useful trick -- lacking a tape measure long enough for the height of these trees, we put one of our long outdoor extension cords to work for measuring. We marked off 20-foot increments on a 100-foot cord. Michelle would stand at the tree, and I would pull the cord out to the distance for measuring the tree's height (using their handy triangle tool with the level and mirror). Then we just had to measure from the nearest 20-foot mark. This seemed to be more accurate, since we could see the cord was in a straight line, as opposed to walking away from the tree in smaller measuring increments (and inevitably zig-zagging a bit along the way).

I'm less confident about the accuracy of our crown spread measurements. Part of the problem is that three of our four trees have branches that go far over fences into neighbor yards, or in one case (our biggest tree in the woods in the back) it's hard to see up through the foliage of lesser plants below.

So here are our candidates, and their measurements today recorded with the Nature Center for posterity:

Tree Circumference Height Crown Spread
Boxelder* 124 inches 74 feet 59 feet
Pin Oak 107 inches 79 feet 52 feet
Silver Maple** 89 inches 86 feet 50 feet
Pin Oak*** 117 inches 92 feet 56 feet

*From talking with more tree-savvy people, we're not entirely sure this is a boxelder, given its size. We were basing its identity on the leaves, using the identification booklet that came in the Tree Search kit.

**This is the tree pictured above.
***We think it's a pin oak, but we're not entirely sure because we couldn't make out the shape of its individual leaves from the ground.

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Friday, June 22, 2007


Next week my campaign will have to file its first campaign finance report. Now's a great time to contribute to my campaign, if you too are ready to see the balance of power shift in city hall. You can give online immediately, or you can print and mail a contribution form with your check. Don't be hesitant if you can only afford to give only a small amount right now, like $10 or $20 — I am interested in having a large number of donors to report, as well the money they've contributed.

Thank you!


Monday, June 18, 2007

Highlights of the Taste of Maplewood

Last week we did go to the Taste of Maplewood event over at the community center. Some of the highlights we witnessed:

  • The police department had temporary tattoos of the Maplewood Police Department shoulder patches, as well as MPD-branded highligher pens, pizza cutters, and chip-bag clips. I guess they talk to college students a lot, and these are especially popular items with that demographic.
  • The councilperson dunk-tank looked like a success. We didn't arrive early enough to see Mayor Longrie in the tank, but Michelle and I did get to take a few throws at Erik Hjelle and Will Rossbach. (Sadly, we missed.) In the contest to raise the most money, Will won with his "make it up on volume" strategy of offering cheap throws. I think a lot of credit has to go to Erik, who bullhorn-amplified taunting attracted a lot of throwing arms for dunking Will.
  • I found that just two chicken tacos from Acapulco was probably more meal than I even needed. Michelle enjoyed a prime rib sandwich from Gulden's. Party Time Liquors was giving away free samples of 1919 root beer, which was not to be missed. There were more food vendors (including Chicago-style dogs, ice cream, and coffee), making me wish I had room to eat more.
  • Many local politicians turned out -- the whole city council attended for at least part of the evening, and I saw State Reps. Leon Lillie and Nora Slawik, and our Ramsey County Commissioner, Victoria Reinhardt.
I had fun, and enjoyed seeing familiar faces and meeting new ones!


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Mulberry Season

We've got a number of mulberry trees in our yard, and over the past couple of years I've been making mulberry jam and mulberry syrup (which is, to be honest, failed jam that didn't get enough pectin to gel right; but it makes a wonderful topping for vanilla ice cream or pancakes -- in fact, I think I like it better than the jam).

When we moved into our house in 2001, Xcel came out right before the closing and hacked down all the plants along our eastern property line (where their power lines run back from the street). A new generation of plants has since grown up, including several mulberries, which are now bearing fruit. Adding their output to that of the much older mulberries in our back yard, and this year looks like a record harvest! As usual, the birds and other critters will be getting the bulk of it, but I went out this morning to make sure Michelle and I got our modest share before the summer gets too busy.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Taste of Maplewood

If you're around Maplewood this evening, be sure to stop by the community center for the big Taste of Maplewood event, which runs from 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM. As I recall this was originally planned for several months ago, but the idea of it attracted more interest from the local business community. The result was to move it back to the summer here, in order for it to be bigger and better!

Besides food and other goodness, I hear there will be a city council dunk tank. The councilperson who raises the most money from people paying to dunk them gets to choose the charity to which all the money raised goes.

I'll be going to check out the event, and I hope to see a lot of folks there!


Saturday, June 09, 2007

Call for Volunteers

I haven't been posting much lately, but the reason is that I've been doing so much work on the campaign. (I'd write more about that if I weren't so busy!)

Today I'm working on an e-mail list for volunteers. If you'd like to volunteer for my campaign, please drop me a line (please include your phone number, if you would) to let me know that you're interested. I need lots of volunteers to help with lit drops, fundraisers, installing and removing lawn signs, get-out-the-vote phone calls on election day, and more! As I learned from my work on other peoples' campaigns in years past, volunteering is fun, and it is also a way for you to help change the direction of our city.

I should note, while there are of course more volunteer opportunities for local folks, there will still be ways to help if you don't live in Maplewood (or even if you don't live in Minnesota).


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