John Nephew

Maplewood City Council Policy & Politics


Friday, September 28, 2007

Bruentrup Booya on Oct. 6th

The other day I ran into Carolyn Peterson of the Maplewood Area Historical Society (among other hats she wears), and she gave me a flyer about an upcoming event at the Bruentrup Farm. Details:


Sponsored by the Maplewood Area Historical Society and the Maplewood Historical Preservation Committee. The City of Maplewood is celebrating it's 50th year.

Saturday October 6, 2007
Noon to 4:00pm at the Bruentrup Heritage Farm.
2170 East County Road D., Maplewood, MN 55109. Near Maplewood Mall.

Historic displays and artifacts, Live music, tractor wagon rides and much more.
Extra parking at the Salvation Army lot (Woodlyn & Ariel). Ride the hay wagon to the farm.
For more information Contact Carolyn at 651.748.9009.

I'm not sure if I can make it, due to conflicting commitments on that day, but it looks like it will be a fun event for the whole family!


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Moose Lodge

The Moose Lodge at Frost and English is hosting a happy hour this evening from 4:00 to 6:00, for residents to come together and discuss Maplewood issues and even meet some candidates. I have a 4:30 meeting so I'm not sure when I'll be able to get there, but I do plan to stop by, and with luck other candidates will be in attendance as well.

More details are available on the Maplewood Voters Coalition webpage.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

REALTOR® Questionnaires

The Saint Paul Area Association of REALTORS® invited all of the Maplewood city council candidates to complete a questionnaire with issues of concern to their members. I've put my own questionnaire online so that you can download it. Better yet, you can now see the answers of the primary winners (or at least the three of four who returned a completed questionnaire) on the realtors' public policy website, to compare and contrast our responses.


Monday, September 17, 2007

A Brief Retrospective

Before getting back into campaigning mode, I wanted to take a moment to look back at the primary, with some links and some thoughts.

First of all, if you didn't catch it at the time, here are links to some of the media coverage from the primary. Star Tribune reporter Chris Havens wrote up a short piece, with quotes from several candidates on election night. The Star Tribune also has a results page (click on candidate names for their profiles). The Pioneer Press followed up Michael Enright's pre-election survey of the field of candidates and issues with a election results summary piece by Elizabeth Mohr (including other North Metro races as well). The most detailed look at the primary results came from Katy Zillmer in a special online extra for the Maplewood Review (it may also appear in this week's printed edition).

Second, I want to repeat my thanks to so many supporters and volunteers who made the success of last week possible. We had people making phone calls, knocking on doors, persuading their neighbors, and the result was a turnout that surpassed my wildest hopes. Before we get down to working on an even bigger turnout for the general election in November, it's time for the citizens of Maplewood to congratulate themselves for this big step toward taking back our city.

Finally, I want to offer my compliments and best wishes to three candidates who did not make it through the primary, but who impressed me each time I met them, with their passion for positive change, their commitment to our community, and their promise as leaders: Jim Llanas, Jim Meehan, and James Dykes. The primary results were somewhat lopsided, but I don't believe it is any negative reflection on these three; on the contrary, I talked to citizens who told me that they very much liked those candidates, but felt they had to send a strong message of disapproval to the current majority in city hall, and the way to do that was by voting for me and Will Rossbach. I'm sure we will see more of these men, and that's good news for Maplewood's future.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007


You can see results on the Ramsey County webpage here:

As I type this, we are sitting at the Buffalo Wild Wings at County Road D and White Bear (where they have wifi), and 15 of 16 precincts are in. I'll have to think of something eloquent to say later, but for now, I'm just speechless. It sure looks to me like the people have spoken, and they have a strong opinion to express. I am humbled to see this support, and to have the privilege of going into the general election and have the chance to serve all the people of Maplewood.

Edit, 9/12, 7:04 AM: The Maplewood city website includes detailed results by precinct.


Primary Election Day

Hey, it's election day! Did you vote yet?

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Monday, September 10, 2007

MVC Candidate Forum Audio

At some point in the future, the Maplewood Voters' Coalition candidate forum will be broadcast on one of the cable access channels. But for those who couldn't make it to the event, don't want to wait until after the primary for the broadcast, or don't have cable, the MVC has posted a summary and audio of the event on their website, along with some still images.

While I'm on the subject, I also thought I'd post the prepared remarks I wrote for opening and closing statements at the MVC forum. At the actual event I wound up speaking more off the cuff, but I think my written remarks are worth sharing, especially on the eve of the primary election.

MVC Forum Opening Remarks

Let me begin by thanking the Maplewood Voters Coalition for their endorsement, and for hosting this forum.

There's a funny thing about campaigning for Maplewood City Council this year. We candidates get to stand up for the most common-sense things that everyone should agree with – for example, to say that the city should produce its budgetary documents and financial reports on time; or the city should not retaliate against workers who exercise their legal right to organize. This year, those common sense things that should go without saying actually need to be said, because they do in fact distinguish us from the majority that currently runs the city council.

This evening provides a wonderful change of pace. I think that in this company, with the engaged citizens of the Maplewood Voters Coalition, and this panel of candidates who have met the MVC's expectations, we share a common understanding of things gone wrong in city hall. So here we get to take the conversation a step further – away from critiques of the present, and into our visions for the future.

I am honored to have the endorsement of the informed and engaged members of the MVC. It is an honor to be here with other candidates that have received the MVC's seal of approval, and I look forward to this evening's forum.

Closing Remarks

For my closing remarks, I'd like to tell you what I've seen on the campaign trail. I decided to run back in February, so it's been almost seven months now for me. I began door-knocking on July 1st, and I've now visited every precinct and neighborhood in the city, to bring my message to voters who care about city government. I have to tell you, everywhere I've been in Maplewood, I have found voters ready to hear my message of restoring pride in Maplewood through fiscal responsibility and good government.

Something voters want is hope. Tonight, I'm here to tell you that there is good reason for hope. All over Maplewood, voters are overwhelmingly unhappy with the direction of the city, and ready to vote for change. Most of the candidates in this race, including my worthy opponents on this panel, offer a better future for Maplewood than the majority that controls the city council today. I am doing my very best to win, and I do want you all to vote for me as the very best candidate. But I have to tell you that I believe, even if I am not on the ballot after next week's primary, or not on the new city council in January, I believe that democracy will work, and the voters of Maplewood will vote for the positive change that this city longs to see.

Thank you again, and good night.

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Chamber of Commerce Questionnaires

The St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce website has posted the questionnaires completed by four of the candidates in the city council race, including yours truly.

Also, remember to check out the broadcasts on Channel 19 of the forum hosted by the Chamber, and tell your friends neighbors to tune in as well!

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Saturday, September 08, 2007

News of the Day

Today's Pioneer Press (or at least the North Metro edition) includes an article about next Tuesday's primary in Maplewood and the candidates.

Meanwhile, Maplewood Voices reports that the Maplewood Voters' Coalition has filed a fair campaign practices complaint against candidate Rebecca Cave and the Maplewood Firefighters' Association, Inc. You can read the details on the MVC website.

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Friday, September 07, 2007

Thoughts About Fundraising

One of the most intimidating things I faced when working on a plan to run for Maplewood City Council was the idea of fundraising. Whether we like it or not, money is part of politics, and it's a major challenge for every candidate.

A candidate's fundraising may give us a hint about how they will manage the public purse once in office. For example, do they spend their money effectively? Do they follow the rules, by turning in the required reports, complete and on time? Only three candidates and one organization involved in this race turned in their pre-primary campaign finance reports on time. I think the last couple of years of Maplewood governance have shown us some unfortunate examples of what can happen when people ignore the rules or skip reading the fine print.

Some may say that it's suspicious for a candidate to raise money from out of town. It's really not, if you think about it.

When you need to raise money for a campaign, you first go to the people you know. I do not have family in Maplewood (besides my wife, Michelle, of course), so all my contributions from family come from out of town, often out of state. Many of my friends also are not local; our business associates and customers are located all over the country.

These people gave me money not because they care about Maplewood, but because they trust and believe in me -- they believe I have the passion, the integrity, the honesty, and the competence to accomplish something good. They have known me for years, know how I treat people, know the ethical standards by which I have conducted my business with them and their peers. (You can read an earlier entry I wrote about some of these supporters.) There is nothing I can do in Maplewood city council that will benefit a game publisher in Seattle or a New York Times bestselling science fiction novelist in Arizona. Is it better for a candidate to have all their money come from local people who may have a personal or financial stake in the city council's decisions?

My fundraising demonstrates that I have an ability to lead, to bring people together for a higher purpose than their personal, selfish interests. Some people may try and convince you this is a bad thing. Perhaps they want candidates in office who owe them something.

I would suggest that my fundraising demonstrates exactly what you should want in a councilperson. Rather than making enemies of my business competitors, I made them into friends who respect me enough to give me money just for asking, for a city council race a thousand miles away. Heck, I even got a contribution from a former high school girlfriend. And as of that finance report turned in last week, I had received cash donations from 92 individuals -- not just maximum contributions from a handful of big donors.

Ask yourself, why do some other candidates not have a huge list of supporters who willingly gave them money just because they asked? Were they unpersuasive? Do the people who know them best not find them trustworthy? Were they just afraid to ask? And -- here's the big question -- are those the people you want representing Maplewood when it comes time to go to the county, state, or federal government, or anywhere else, and ask for money?

So if someone tries to frighten you by saying that I raised more money from out-of-state donors than most candidates in this race have raised in total, ask yourself -- is that really a bad thing?

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Broadcast Schedule

Good news -- if the audio clip a couple days ago wasn't enough for you, the Chamber of Commerce candidates' forum is now on the broadcast schedule. (Thanks to BM for the tip!)

On the Channel 19 web schedule, the forum is listed as "Mplwd Forum." Broadcast dates and times are:

Saturday, September 8th: 3:00 PM
Sunday, September 9th: 9:30 PM
Monday, September 10th: 8:00 PM
Tuesday, September 11th: 5:30 PM

That appears to be all the showings before Tuesday's primary. There is also one I see scheduled for after, at 9:00 PM on Friday, September 14.

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Maplewood Review on Chamber Forum

No word yet on when last week's Chamber of Commerce candidates' forum will be broadcast, but there is an article about it in this week's Maplewood Review.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Get Out the Vote!

The DFL has put out a call for volunteers to help with get-out-the-vote efforts this weekend. See their webpage for details and a sign-up form. They are calling for folks to help in both St. Paul and Maplewood races. There's a need for folks to help with phone calls, door-knocking, and the intensive work on election day to make sure that the supporters we've identified over the course of the campaign remember to get to the polls!

I should note, you certainly don't need to be a Democrat to help in this effort. I'm proud of my DFL endorsement, and pleased to make good use of the tools that endorsement gives my campaign -- but I am also proud that I have won supporters from all across the political spectrum. As citizens of Maplewood, we are united in our demand for a city government that is responsible, accountable, and well-managed. That's an agenda that should cross all the traditional partisan divides.

If we achieve that goal, and find we have time left over for heated arguments about foreign policy or federal entitlement reform, well, that would be what my Jerry, my Republican business partner, would call a "high-class problem."


Monday, September 03, 2007

Happy Maplewood Workers

While we wait to learn when this past Thursday morning's candidate forum will be broadcast on Channel 19, I thought folks might enjoy an audio clip from the event.

This clip begins with a question about the city's reorganization, asked by moderator Ted Lillie. To keep the file size and time down, I edited to just the remarks of Rebecca Cave (who declared that "city staff is very happy") and myself on this subject.

Click here to download the audio (MP3 file, 6.8 MB, duration 5:53).

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Sunday, September 02, 2007

A Citizen's Questionnaire

Over the course of this campaign, I've been posting questionnaires I've filled out for various groups (you should be able to find them under the endorsements link; look for entries with "questionnaire" in the title), and there are more on the way. Typically those questionnaires focus on the particular interests of a group (labor, business, etc.).

A lot of my actual campaign time is spent at peoples' doors and on the phone, listening to residents' individual concerns, which don't always get raised by the interest groups and media. One couple I spoke with took the time to send me a thoughtful e-mail with a list of questions and concerns. With their permission I wanted to post it here (names and address redacted), along with my responses, as examples of the kinds of questions we candidates hear out on there on the campaign trail.

First, their concerns and questions:

1. Graffiti – There has been an increased amount of graffiti in our community and for Maplewood to promote ourselves as a great place to live and work, this needs to change. First impressions are lasting and Maplewood as well as the Twin Cities area needs to take a pro-active role in preventing and prosecuting those that area caught vandalizing public property.

2. Crime & Education – Increase Police and civic involvement with our young residents in Maplewood. There should be City outreach programs in the schools and volunteer opportunities for students to be a part of and to make our community better.

3. Driver – Maplewood needs to increase enforcement of speed limits on Maplewood streets. Driver behavior has changed to “me first” and if you are a biker, walker, runner, adult, or child, one’s safety on the roads needs to be protected. I live on a busy street, as do you, and there is at least once a day that I hear the irresponsible driver racing their car down the road and not respecting residents who live in the area. I have asked the City of Maplewood Police Department on four different occassions to post a mobile speed advisory sign on County Road B to remind drivers of their speed; it has yet to happen. County Road B is not the only street with drivers not respecting others using the road.

4. Speed Limit - Decrease the speed on County Road B. Maplewood has jurisdiction of County Road B between Edgerton and Arcade and I would like to request the speed be reduced from 35mph to 30 mph in this area. Note the speed on Roselawn (30mph) and it carries more vehicles and is a thru-street. The stretch of County Road B has intersections, site distant challenges and residential driveways with a “T” intersection at Arcade and a speed of 30 mph is more fitting. Have you noticed Arcade is posted at 30 mph as well? Increased Police presence and speed traps would help drivers be more aware of there speed and the safety of others.

5. Taxes – Personally, I would be willing to pay higher taxes if there were results in items #1-#4 that resulted in a positive impact to Maplewood and improved our community.

6. Council - The City Council is supposed to represent the residents of Maplewood. We as residents are responsible for the current state of the City and Council; we elected them. I have watched too many interactions between Council members and City staff that are unprofessional and embarrassing to me as a tax payer in Maplewood. I would like to see a Council that works cohesively to make Maplewood a better City not posturing to make themselves look better. Have we forgotten that we are talking City Government and the focus should be what’s best for the City and not individual Council members or their own political aspirations? I also want a Council that works together to hire quality staff that can take care of daily business and relies on their staff’s abilities. We have lost quality staff over the last few years and it is unfortunate to the Community but truly the result of the current Council. Lastly, I would recommend Council meetings be efficient and be limited to 11PM. There should be no new business started after 11PM; if active items are being discussed they should be postponed to another meeting for further discussion.

Here are my responses:

1. Grafitti: I could be mis-remembering this, but I think someone told me that the city has not been as prompt this year at removing grafitti from city parks. It may be that the incidence is the same rate as before, but the recent elimination of the Parks & Recreation Department has meant that some tasks have slipped to a lower priority. I've heard complaints from other citizens about a whole range of park maintenance-related issues; for example, parents who have started going an hour early to games and bringing their own chalk, etc., to mark fields for their childrens' summer sports leagues. We need to reestablish the position of Parks & Recreation Director, and make sure we are taking proper care of these facilities.

2. Crime & Education: You have good suggestions. On the police side, Maplewood has had some problems with being short-staffed, and the situation was not helped when the city council eliminated the Deputy Police Chief at the end of last year, even as we were in the process of hiring more officers. There are a variety of volunteer opportunities for all ages -- I participated in a clean-up day at Joy Park earlier this year, and I know the latest city newsletter mentions upcoming projects for clearing buckthorn from city parks, for example. I'm sure more can be done to publicize these events and recruit more volunteers, and perhaps coordinate with the local schools. I should add the caution, though, that I think the city will have some higher priority basics to attend to -- continuing the unfortunate trend we began last year, it seems that we are woefully behind on our 2008 budget process, for example -- and the city council in January 2008 will have a full plate dealing with the most urgent issues the present regime has created.

3 & 4 - Driving & Speed Limit: As I look out my window and watch cars zip by while I'm typing this, I fully understand what you mean about the traffic on County Road B. Michelle and I enjoy taking walks around the neighborhood, as you and [your wife] do, so we too are sensitive about the safety issues. I used to bike to work, and know how little attention drivers typically pay to bicyclists; one time I almost ran into the side of a mini-van that turned right in front of me, without apparently being aware that I was even there. If I were a yard further ahead I might have been killed. Being not far from the stop sign at Edgerton, we get to "enjoy" the throaty sounds of fast-accelerating cars at all hours. I'd love to see one of those speed advisory signs, even on a temporary basis like I've seen on Larpenteur recently — there are a couple between home and my workplace in St. Paul that I pass every day, and they always make me check if I'm creeping up a little too fast.

While I share your concerns, I don't want to make any big promises, for two reasons. The first is that this is a county road, so I don't believe the city is actually able to change the speed limit. This may explain the difference between B and Arcade.

Second is the issue of police availability. I have fairly often seen police cars passing our house on County Road B, so I do actually think our street gets more police presence than a lot of areas of Maplewood I've visited. The squad cars are equipped with radar that lets them measure the speed of oncoming traffic while they are driving. But the reality is that traffic stops usually take lower priority than other police duties. I did a ride-along in a police car a couple of weeks ago, and it was a very informative experience. We did pull over a couple of speeders in various parts of the city, and stopped a few times to create a "speed trap.". But more of the officer's time was spent responding to more serious crimes, such as a domestic assault in the Gladstone neighborhood, a man at St John's Hospital who had been stabbed, and a group of teens and one adult who were breaking into cars and stealing stereos, speakers, GPS systems, etc., down near Stillwater Road. Perhaps with the new officers added to the force this year, there will be more opportunities for traffic enforcement city-wide. Certainly that's something that, as a council member, I would encourage our police force to do.

5. Taxes: I am interested in holding taxes down, but not at the expense of safety and quality of life. And I also think that prudent investments pay off -- safer roads mean fewer accidents, which means lower cost of insurance community-wide. Investments in our quality of life mean a more attractive community, higher property values, etc.

6. Council: What you say here is so aligned with my own thoughts, I should have you writing my campaign literature!

Each neighborhood has unique issues, as this list of questions shows, and my city-wide door-knocking has given me a great chance to learn about them. Often I find citizens with the same concerns that have motivated me to run. I don't know the answers to all the questions I get asked -- but that's one of the reasons the campaigning process is important to good government, to get out there and listen to voters, to find out what are the important things to the community that we candidates haven't even thought of before.


Saturday, September 01, 2007

MVC Debate 9/5

The next public candidate forum/debate coming up before the September 11th primary will be hosted by the Maplewood Voters' Coalition. Details provided by MVC Chair Bob Schmidt (lifted from Maplewood Voices):

Maplewood Voters Coalition hosts candidate forum
The Maplewood Voters Coalition is sponsoring a public forum with Maplewood City Council incumbent Will Rossbach and candidates John Nephew, James Llanas, and James Dykes at 7:00 - 8:30 PM on Wednesday, September 5, 2007, at the Maplewood Public Library (3025 Southlawn Drive, Maplewood). Issues to be discussed include parks, public safety, public works, and city management. Please visit for further information.

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