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John Nephew

Maplewood City Council Policy & Politics


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 (www.maplewoodvoices.com), 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 (www.JohnNephew.com), 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.


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