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John Nephew

Maplewood City Council Policy & Politics


League of Women Voters Questionnaire

The League of Women Voters invited city council candidates to fill out a questionnaire to help voters in this year's election. Two of the five candidates responded, and the answers can now be seen on the www.Vote411.org website.

Here's how to get there: Select Minnesota from the pull-down menu under "On Your Ballot", and press the "Go" button. Then, under "Build My Ballot," fill in your address, and click the "Go" button. Press "Confirm" on the next screen. This takes you to a screen that lists the five candidates. You can click on individual candidates, or compare two side by side.

Or, if you like, you can just read the questions and my answers below:

Why are you seeking this office?
In my four years on the City Council, I believe I've made a real difference in restoring good government, fiscal responsibility and a positive reputation for the City of Maplewood. We've recruited a professional city manager, halted the growth in the city's debt, improved our bond rating, maintained city services in spite of the loss of promised funds from the state, restored normal insurance coverage, and won awards for our collaboration with other local governments.

To be honest, it's not a very fun time to be a local elected official. Budgets are tight, many of our residents and businesses are facing economic hardship, and decisions are often tough choices among unpleasant alternatives. I believe my knowledge and talents, and my willingness to work hard to understand the issues, will help Maplewood navigate the rough seas ahead. I want to make sure that the Maplewood my daughters grow up in is the beautiful, thriving, safe community that attracted us to live here.

What are your ideas to increase city revenues and/or decrease city expenses?
I think the most promising path to both is through partnerships with other local governments. Maplewood's joint recreation programming agreement with North Saint Paul is a good example; it's preserving and enhancing recreation options for residents of both cities, and saving us both money. We recently signed an agreement with Roseville to allow each of our Information Technology departments to do work for the other city as needed, allowing us both to maximize the efficient use of our existing resources. I worked on the Cable Commission's New Technology Committee to bring streaming video to member cities. Now all of Maplewood's city meetings are available on the internet, at a lower cost than we would pay doing it alone.

Agreements like these require trust and confidence. Like any business or individual, a local government would rather work with a respected and stable entity, not one that is constantly in the headlines for “dysfunction,” internal conflict, and needless litigation.

What are you views on organized trash collection in Maplewood?
I have been closely involved in Maplewood's study of trash collection. While many people assume that organizing hauling means higher costs, I've discovered the opposite is generally true. Potential benefits of organized trash collection include savings to residents, reducing air and noise pollution, and reducing the wear on city streets, while ensuring equal or superior service options. These benefits must be weighed against the value of choice for households. Some residents have told me that there is no limit to how much more they will pay in order to preserve their choice. For most of us, I think there's a tipping point where savings are worth more than the value of being able to change haulers at will.

As a member of the Trash Hauling Working Group, I helped develop the Request for Proposals, inviting haulers to propose plans to serve Maplewood residents under a contractual arrangement. This will give us specific alternatives to compare to the current system.

What are your views on the upkeep and ways to pay for water and sewer infrastructure?
Maplewood recently completed a study of our water system. Most of our city's households are served by Saint Paul Regional Water Services, which has a capital plan based on their entire system, which includes for example 100+-year-old water mains in Saint Paul. SPRWS doesn't always want to replace mains when Maplewood is reconstructing streets, because other pipes in their system are considered higher priority. If a main then breaks, our new street has to be torn up in order to get at it, at much greater expense and structural harm to the road, reducing its life. In order to avoid this situation, Maplewood has been paying for the replacement of aged cast iron water main while streets are excavated, funding this with a surcharge on water bills. The surcharge has not been enough to cover the main replacements. My hope is that we can work with SPRWS to modify the policies for Maplewood water main replacement. It seems likely that some increase in the water surcharge will be necessary.


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