John Nephew

Maplewood City Council Policy & Politics


Friday, August 31, 2007

State Fair Mini-Donuts

This afternoon, Michelle and I will be volunteering a shift at the mini-donut booth by the grandstand. I believe Rep. Leon Lillie will also be working the same shift with us. Stop by and say hi if you're going to be at the fair!

Update, 9/1: Photos of me and Leon Lillie working the donut assembly line!


Thursday, August 30, 2007

This Morning's Debate/Forum

This morning I was one of five city council candidates who participated in the candidate forum hosted at the Maplewood branch of the Ramsey County Library by the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce, numerous partner organizations, and sponsor Keystone Computer Solutions.

Cable channel 19 was taping the event for later broadcast. The camera person I spoke with was not sure when the broadcast would be scheduled — so watch their schedule to see when it appears. (From a quick look at their programming schedule, it will probably be played back more than once, too.)

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007


It's not up on the Lillie Papers website yet, but today's headline in the Maplewood Review reads, "John Banick case settled for $500,000."

To read my thoughts on this case and the current council majority's efforts to undermine the Police Civil Service Commission, check out my previous blog entries on the topic.

Our city manager stated that the settlement money came from the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust, so "the cost has already been reimbursed back to us." (I assume that's the cost beyond our $50,000 deductible, of course; unless other lawsuits had already gone past our $200,000 aggregate deductible before this case.) Of course, the Trust is paid into by all the member cities, so the taxpayers are still footing the bill in the end ... just a larger pool of taxpayers.

Update: The Maplewood Review article is now on their website.

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Last Weekend's Lit Drop

This past weekend, my campaign and Will Rossbach's campaign did a joint "lit drop" (volunteers delivering our literature to targeted voters' doors) all over the city. I think it's fair to say that we were both blown away by the number of volunteers who turned out to help, and I wanted to publicly thank them all. There is such a thirst for positive change in Maplewood -- people are tired of a regime that governs with the same kind of disregard for facts and reality that they use in campaigning. Our volunteers had the chance to witness that firsthand.

I'd also like to thank these elected officials who support my election campaign, and who all turned out to work with us last weekend: State Sen. Chuck Wiger, Ramsey County Commissioner Victoria Reinhardt, State Rep. Nora Slawik, and State Rep. Leon Lillie. They have all been sources of inspiration, advice, and encouragement, and I'm proud that they are campaigning on my behalf. If I am elected, I also look forward to working together with them and their respective governmental bodies on the issues important to Maplewood residents.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

MVC Candidate Forum

Thursday morning this week will be the forum hosted by the Chamber of Commerce. Whether or not you can make it to that event, be sure to mark your calendar with the next candidate forum, hosted by the Maplewood Voters Coalition -- next Wednesday evening, September 5th, from 7:00 to 8:30 at the Maplewood Public Library (3025 Southlawn Drive, Maplewood).

I believe the four candidates endorsed by the MVC are all planning to attend.

You may also be interested in the MVC voter guides. They have a summary version for quick candidate comparison, and a detailed version with questionnaire answers and press clippings.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Star Tribune Voter Guide

The Star Tribune voter guide is now online.

(Hat tip to fellow candidate Jim L. for spotting it and sharing the word!)

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

MVC Questionnaire

Today is going to be a busy one on the campaign trail for me, but while I'm out knocking on doors you can enjoy the latest questionnaire in my growing online collection. This is the one I filled out for the Maplewood Voters' Coalition, who selected me as one of their four endorsements for the primary.


Friday, August 24, 2007

Seeking Volunteers!

I am looking for more volunteers to join us on a lit drop on Saturday, and also for phone banking next week. We will also be needing volunteers to help with more calling afterwards, and get-out-the-vote efforts. If you would like to help, please send me an e-mail.

The primary is only 18 days away!


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Chamber Debate, August 30

The Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce is planning to host a Maplewood City Council candidate debate on Thursday, August 30 at 7:30 a.m. I haven't heard the details yet (such as the location), but wanted to let interested folks know to mark their calendars for it!

Update: See comments for details on the event.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Gen Con

I've been off the campaign trail this week because I've been out of town on business. I am at Gen Con, an enormous event focused on games, particularly hobbyist games like the ones my company, Atlas Games, publishes. Tens of thousands of gamers converge on the Indianapolis convention center to find new games, to meet the creators who make the games they enjoy, to buy games and game-related merchandise, and most of all to play games pretty much around the clock. Seriously -- at 4 AM, you'll find people in the hotel lobbies and the Steak & Shake, playing card games or talking about their day's imaginary adventures.

This year our new release for the show is a very special project, a book entitled 40 Years of Gen Con. The convention is now owned by friends of ours, and they licensed Atlas Games to produce this illustrated history of the show, to celebrate its 40th anniversary.

Yesterday I took the day away from the exhibit hall booth to play in a special event that I've long wanted to try, the National Security Decision Making Game. (I figured just by playing this I'd be able to claim more foreign policy experience than at least half the current field of presidential candidates!) I wrote up the experience in an entry on the Atlas Games blog.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Building Trades Questionnaire

One of my recent endorsements, as I wrote this past weekend, was from the St. Paul Building & Construction Trades Council. I have uploaded the questionnaire that I submitted to the Council, prior to my in-person screening, for anyone interested in reading it.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Voting Already?!

Did you know that some of your neighbors have already voted in next month's primary?

Absentee voting in Ramsey County began last Friday, August 10th. Even if you are unable to make it to the polls on election day, absentee voting allows your voice to be heard at the ballot box.

You can vote in person at city hall — I've never done it myself, but it sounds like you can register, apply for your absentee ballot, receive the ballot and use it to vote all in the same visit! Just stop by city hall during regular weekday office hours, 8 AM to 4:30 PM.

You can mail an absentee ballot application. You can call the city at 651-249-2105 to ask for an application to be sent to you; or you can e-mail Deb Schmidt with your request. If you like, you can get a ballot even faster by using the digital absentee ballot application on the city website. This is a PDF file with form fields, so you can fill in the information on-screen, print, sign, and mail!

In order to be counted, absentee ballots must be received at the Maplewood City Hall by Election Day, so do not delay if you will need to vote by mail.

For more information, visit the absentee voting information page on the City of Maplewood website.


Monday, August 13, 2007

MVC Endorsement

I am pleased to announce that I am one of four candidates who have been endorsed by the Maplewood Voters' Coalition.

Four? you ask. Yep -- the MVC has taken an unusual approach, endorsing more candidates than there are seats available in the general election. Their intent is to endorse "all candidates we judge to meet our standards for public office: a respect for process, reliance on professionalism, and a commitment to public service rather than a personal agenda" (to quote the endorsing letter from Endorsement Committee Chair Deb Birkholz and MVC Chair Robert Schmidt).

I am pleased that this group of citizens has come together to work for better local government, and it is an honor to have the MVC endorsement.

On a personal note, Michelle and I live in western Maplewood, which is part of the Roseville school district, so we have school board elections this year as well. I am pleased that the MVC is endorsing in that race as well, and I look forward to reading their evaluations of those candidates.

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

SD55 Picnic

Yesterday was the Senate District 55 DFL picnic just over in Oakdale. Besides the local party activists, the gathering included volunteers from the Hilary Clinton and Mike Ciresi campaigns, and a visit from senate candidate Al Franken. (Franken was also at the Maplewood endorsing convention, and even mentioned it in his campaign blog.) Also present, as you might expect, were State Senator Chuck Wiger (district 55) and State Representative Nora Slawik (district 55B, representing south Maplewood and Oakdale). Rep. Leon Lillie (55A, representing northern Maplewood and North St. Paul) stopped by the picnic early on, before Michelle and I had arrived.

John Nephew, Nora Slawik, Chuck Wiger, Will Rossbach, 8/11/07
Photo: Michelle Nephew (Click for high-resolution image.)

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

St Paul Building Trades Endorsement

Michelle and I just got home from a picnic, and found some good news in today's mail: I have been officially endorsed by the St Paul Building & Construction Trades Council!

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Print-Quality Photos

These photos are provided as a courtesy to the media and others interested in including candidate portraits in print media. They are 300 dpi images.

Formal Portrait of John
Headshot of John with Forest Background


Sunday, August 05, 2007

Lillie News Q&A

After the filing period ended, reporter Katy Zillmer sent a list of question to all of the city council candidates. She used our answers to compile her newspaper article about the field of candidates. Naturally, space in a newspaper is limited, but the internet makes it easy for me to share the entire list of questions and my full answers.

1. Why did you decide to run for Maplewood City Council?

Maplewood is on the wrong track. We need competence and a basic respect for process at the top of city government. The majority that controls the city council has made it clear that they like the situation they have created. In order to effect positive change, we need new blood on the council, and I'm prepared to do the job.

On a personal level, I am at a point in my life where I feel drawn to public service. I welcome this as an opportunity to apply the skills I've already developed as a creative professional and businessman to new and different problems. (I began my career as a freelance writer and editor, and then started a game publishing company, which I have now run for 17 years.)

2. Do you have a background or interest in local government? (This may be repetitive for the current City Council members but please share your answer!) If so, what about that experience will you apply if elected to the Maplewood City Council?

I began attending council meetings early last year, wanting to form my own opinion about the controversies then brewing. I was concerned by what I saw, so I attended more meetings, and began taking detailed notes and submitting them to Maplewood Voices (, a website tracking local politics. I now have a solid grasp of the kinds of issues that come before the council, and I understand the basics of how the city and its departments operate. I have also been a witness to some of the unusual events of the past year. For example, I was the only resident remaining in the audience, past 2:00 AM, when City Manager Copeland was given a permanent appointment at a meeting last fall.

3. What is the platform of your campaign?

Fiscal Responsibility: I want to keep a lid on taxes in the long term, and to do that we need to make smart investments today. For example, a well-qualified, professional city manager may cost more in salary, but the savings from avoiding just one needless lawsuit will make up for it.

Good Government: Good government requires mutual respect among council, staff, and citizens, and respect for the law. It means valuing the professionalism and expertise of city employees. Above all, it means making decisions motivated by the public good, not personal vendetta.

Pride in Maplewood: While we are all embarrassed by the picture drawn of Maplewood in the papers recently, we can't fairly blame the media for reporting the news; we can, however, change the story itself through the ballot box. Let's bring the headlines back to stories of our beautiful parks, our treasured open spaces, our thriving world-class business, our visionary entrepreneurs, our safe neighborhoods, and the successes of our children.

4. Why did you choose those topics?

The specific issues before the council have varied from month to month. My three campaign themes are what I see as the common threads of what needs to be set right, and they are intertwined. For example, the city's recent reorganization is what I would call bad government. It punished employees for exercising their right to bargain collectively, and imposed a new structure from the top down with very little input, as far as I can tell, from the professionals affected. We saw it accompanied by a 10.2% increase in the property tax levy, the second highest in the past decade. From my door-knocking, I hear a lot of concerns about a decline in the quality of service this year, as many city staff are stressed and overloaded. And of course the budget/reorganization — the way it was implemented, and the lawsuits it spawned — has brought unflattering media coverage of our city. Nobody wants to be known as the city that fires a respected, 20+-year veteran cop for doing his job well instead of doing what the political powers wanted.

5. Is there anything specific you plan to focus on until the primary election in September?

In February I made my decision to run, so I have already been working hard for more than five months on my campaign — studying the issues, building a campaign website (, fundraising, pursuing endorsements, and knocking on doors. I have already been endorsed by AFSCME and the St. Paul Trades & Labor Assembly. I am seeking more endorsements, but most of my time between now and the primary will simply be devoted to knocking on doors and introducing myself to voters.

6. What is your reaction to having eight, possibly more, candidates for two open City Council positions?

It reinforces what I've found in my door-knocking — there is a mandate for positive change in our city. I have met many people who voted for the current regime, and regret it. I've heard many variations of the phrase, “I wanted change, but not like this!”

I believe most of the candidates oppose the current order in City Hall. My job now is to persuade voters that I'm the best prepared, best funded, and most likely to win the general election, to deliver that positive change the voters demand.


Friday, August 03, 2007

DFL Questionnaire

Today I have uploaded the questionnaire I filled out when seeking the Maplewood DFL's endorsement. Questionnaires from the candidates seeking endorsement were printed and provided to all of the delegates who attended the convention.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Lawn Signs

Yard signs have been ordered! Michelle applied her graphic talents to adapting the look-and-feel and design motifs she's used on other campaign materials, working within the technical limitations of screen printing and using just one ink. I'm tremendously pleased with the results, which will look like this:

If you'd like one for your yard and have not already signed up, just send me an e-mail and I'll add you to the sign list. We should have the signs in hand sometime next week.


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