John Nephew

Maplewood City Council Policy & Politics


Monday, June 30, 2008

Popovich Award

Hearty congratulations are due to Maplewood resident Mary Flister, one of two recipients of the Peter S. Popovich Award this year from the Society of Professional Journalists. The award is given to "the person or organization that exemplifies the fight for First Amendment Rights." According to the SPJ:

After attending a “Mayor’s Forum” in Maplewood, where people openly complained about their neighbors and elected officials, Flister began to tape record the public meetings and make them available to the city clerk, and thus any citizen. Flister, concerned the personal attacks would influence public policy, has dutifully recorded the meetings since then, despite numerous public admonishments that city officials make no attempt to diminish. Elected leaders are now considering officially recording meetings “since they’re being recorded anyway.”

Mary's quiet, patient commitment to her belief that the content of these forums should be available to those unable to attend in person, even in the face of withering personal attacks from some angry individuals, is an inspiration to me. It's great to see the Society of Professional Journalists recognize it as well.


Sunday, June 29, 2008

Affordable Housing in the Suburbs

Today's Pioneer Press has an article well worth reading, headlined "The War Over Affordable Housing." It's part one in a series of three about the issue of affordable housing in the Twin Cities, and I think it's well worth reading -- both to understand the nature of the problem and the community need (working families, often young and thus at the lower end of the wage scale, who can't afford to pay the market rate for housing in the suburbs), and also the opposition that "affordable housing" often engenders.

There's also a map that shows per capita affordable housing in various metro communities, including Maplewood.

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Friday, June 27, 2008


This has nothing in particular to do with Maplewood or City Council, but everything to do in general with being a human being in the 21st Century. I think it's the most touching and thought-provoking work of art I've encountered in a while. Enjoy, and thanks to LC for sending me the link.

Read more about this video and its creators (including the 17-year-old vocalist from Minneapolis), if you're curious, on


Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Last week I mentioned that I was attending the League of Minnesota Cities annual conference in Rochester. But I should add that I was not the only Maplewood representative there -- in fact, 80% of the council attended (Will Rossbach, Kathy Juenemann, Diana Longrie, and me).

I think this is a very good thing. Part of the value of the conference were the round-tables and seminars (I attended ones on such topics as city government ethics, how to involve younger people in city government, and the laws that define and govern public purpose expenditures for cities). A bigger value, as I've found to be true of private sector conventions, is the networking. It was a chance to meet peers in other cities, learn about what issues they are facing, get ideas that may be adapted to our city, and so on. There was also a room of exhibitors who offer goods and services to cities -- architects, engineers, accountants, and other consultants, for example -- and that was an opportunity to meet some new people and also touch base with some who already work with Maplewood. And you never know when an acquaintanceship struck at a conference may provide just the connection you need sometime in the future.

In Maplewood's particular situation, as we are moving ahead with our city manager search, I think it was especially good to have four of us visible at the conference. I certainly received numerous questions about how things are going, and particularly about the manager search, and was pleased to be able to tell people that at our last meeting we had approved an RFP to send out to search firms. A couple of folks commented to me that they knew people who were interested in the position. Every positive impression we made in Rochester may encourage someone to apply, and the more and better candidates we get, the better for Maplewood!

Update: Will Rossbach talks about the LMC conference on his website; the LMC itself provides a "post-game" report.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Taste of Maplewood 2008

The 2008 Taste of Maplewood celebration will take place this Thursday, June 19th, at the Maplewood Community Center from 5 to 9 PM. The council has gotten reports of the very high level of interest in the event, with more than 50 vendors participating.

To accomodate the potentially large turnout, there will be overflow parking available at Aldrich Arena and shuttle service to and from the community center.

Be sure to come by and check it out!


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Back in Rochester

Only a couple of days, and I'm back down in Rochester -- this time for the League of Minnesota Cities annual conference. I'm looking forward to tomorrow's schedule of seminars, and am pleased that after having attended several League events since getting elected, there is an increasing number of faces familiar to me, both among fellow elected officials and staff of other cities and League staff.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Recognizing Volunteers

Being at the DFL state convention last weekend reminded me of something I wanted to express: How incredibly important volunteers are to political campaigns and the political process. I sure came to appreciate them on the campaign trail last year. Being in a setting filled with with passionate, hard-working, and very unpaid supporters of multiple candidates (the Nelson-Pallmeyer and Franken volunteers were of course the most visible, given their contest for the Senate endorsement, but there were many more), reinforced that appreciation.

If you have ever volunteered for any candidate, for any party, I'd like to offer my thanks. Your participation is a key part of what makes our democracy work. As the election season moves forward, I encourage every citizen to get out there and participate in at least one campaign, for any candidate you support in any race. It's easy to become cynical about the political process if you only experience it through TV ads and the news media's jaded commentary. But when you join with other volunteers working towards your shared ideals and aspirations, it's hard not to be inspired and energized.

Here's another photo from last weekend, from the Franken war room. After accepting the convention's nomination, he gave a short and funny speech to thank his volunteers and rev them up for all the campaigning work yet to come.


Sunday, June 08, 2008

DFL State Convention

This weekend, Michelle and I have been at the DFL State Convention, where she is a delegate and I have had a lot of free time (which is good, since I am still working my way through an enormous packet for Monday's council meeting).

Yesterday I volunteered in the Franken war room, where I helped with balloting. Runners reported the totals from each delegation, and our group collated the results to see how the votes compared with projections from the voter ID's (in other words, how did people actually vote versus how they said they'd vote?). Based on that information, the candidate and his wife and daughter were dispatched to various specific areas where support needed to be shored up, or where there seemed to be an opportunity to pick up more votes on the next ballot (e.g., a delegation that had strongly shifted in favor of Franken might be ripe to have its remaining votes persuaded). Though, as it turns out, it was finished with one ballot. I wasn't doing anything especially important in this process (basically passing along sheets of paper with scribbled results from one person to the right person at a computer for data entry), but it was exciting and educational to be part of the operation of a campaign on a much larger scale than my own for city council.


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

To Serve (Wings) and Protect (Rooftops), and Raise Money for Worthy Causes

Last Thursday, Michelle and I had dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings up by the Maplewood Mall. Besides being an occasion to enjoy a very tasty Caribbean jerk sandwich, we were there to support the "Tip a Cop" program. Maplewood police from rookie officers all the way up to the police chief were busing tables and soliciting donations to support the Special Olympics. This was one of two "Tip a Cop" evenings at Buffalo Wild Wings in May; between the two, our police raised over $1,700.

This coming weekend brings another fundraiser, the "Cop on Top" program with Rainbow Foods. Maplewood is home to one of thirty metro-area Rainbow grocery stores where police officers will be up on the roof to raise money again for the Special Olympics. In our case, Lieutenant Mike Shortreed and Officer Joe Tran will be braving the elements and the altitude for this worthy cause.

If you are able, stop by to support Officer Tran, Lt. Shortreed, and the Special Olympics. If you'll be out of town for the weekend (up at the cabin, maybe?), you can still pledge your support through the Special Olympics website.


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