Endorsement says Harris’ public and private sector experience
“equips him distinctly to meet the challenges of a changing city.”
Saint Paul – Pat Harris released the following statement regarding the Pioneer Press’s endorsement:
“I am grateful to have earned the endorsement of the Saint Paul’s own Pioneer Press. As Mayor, I will apply my experience on the City Council and in the private sector to help all Saint Paul residents share in our City’s successes. As I said when we began the campaign at the Darul-Uloom Islamic Center on the East Side; all Saint Paulites, regardless of race, place, gender, or income, deserve to live and thrive in our City. Together we will move Saint Paul Forward.”
The Saint Paul Pioneer Press Endorsement joins thousands of Saint Paulites, Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local Union 1 MN/ND, IBEW Local 110, IUOE Local 49, Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce PAC, Saint Paul Association of REALTORS, Saint Paul Building and Construction Trades Council, Saint Paul Police Federation, Saint Paul Firefighters Local 21, Teamsters Joint Council 32, Teamsters Local 120.
Read the Pioneer Press Editorial Board Statement below.
In the diverse field of candidates St. Paul is fortunate to have in its race for mayor, there is no match for the experience one of them will bring to the office.
Our endorsement goes to former City Council Member Pat Harris, whose background in both the public and private sectors — a dozen years on the city council and more than 15 as a public-finance professional — equips him distinctly to meet the challenges of a changing city.
It is a recommendation that is not lightly made, after a process that included three formal rounds of in-person meetings with all of the five major candidates. With the city’s demographic changes — and attendant attention to disparities, equity and the jobs that will address them — Harris will have to be the mayor for ALL of St. Paul’s citizens, those who support him on Nov. 7 and those who do not.
We can’t deny how a powerful symbol at City Hall weighed on — weighed against — our decision. It’s the wall of photos in the mayor’s office that shows all the white men who have held the job since St. Paul’s pioneer days.
But among Harris’ most visible backers are such respected members of St. Paul’s African American community as former Council Member Debbie Montgomery and Tyrone Terrill, a former human rights director for the city. Their support is potent, as is Harris’ decision to open his campaign earlier this year at the Darul-Uloom Islamic Center on the city’s East Side. It sends a message about both his deep connections and attention to the sweeping changes in play in the city.
Harris stood near a onetime Catholic school building, a structure that is “finding new life,” he told supporters.
A place where the children of Irish and other immigrants were educated is “being reborn to serve our latest wave of new Americans,” Harris said. The center, serving the neighborhood’s growing Muslim community, bought the former church and school about a year after St. John’s Catholic parish closed in 2013.
One statement he made that day resonated with us, and it should with voters: “The single best thing we can do to help St. Paul families is to make it easy for residents to get a quality job with a living wage,” Harris told supporters, declaring that “St. Paul needs to recommit to attracting, growing and preserving good jobs in our city.”
He describes an access-to-capital program he promises will be “the most comprehensive job and economic growth plan St. Paul has ever seen.”
It would draw on his finance and budget expertise, says Harris — senior vice president of government banking with BMO Harris Bank — in making nearly $100 million from the city’s investment portfolio accessible for small-business loans from community banks in targeted neighborhoods throughout St. Paul.
He aims to leverage the city’s commitment, working with local foundations and businesses to secure matches that could bring the total to $200 million.
Leadership and connections
We expect whoever wins the mayor’s office to bring in top-notch talent to help run the city. But the best-and-brightest appointees still will need a seasoned leader with the capacity to listen and bridge divides.
“You have to lead from the top,” Harris told us in an additional conversation last week.
In his years at City Hall — with a council office known for its open door — and in the community, Harris has demonstrated an eye for inclusiveness and a knack for engaging people.
The 51-year-old father of four, a member of the Metropolitan Airports Commission for more than a decade, is a former board member and chair of Visit St. Paul, the city’s convention and visitors’ bureau. His long record of community service includes Serving our Troops — the project that has provided 90,000 steak dinners to Minnesota National Guard troops and their families — and St. Anthony Residence, a Catholic Charities facility for chronic alcoholics.
St. Paul’s assets
In our most recent conversation, Harris reflected on St. Paul’s assets, including those that are under-used.
He cited a downtown core — and economic “nodes” in such neighborhoods as Rice Street and Payne Avenue — that need to grow, as well as our riverfront, the “incredible tool” we have in our public libraries and our school district, which would benefit from more direct community connections.
Harris is the man to marshal the assets to help assure St. Paul remains a livable place that’s safe, affordable and — most important — a city where people can both live and work.
Candidates and process
We are grateful to the other major candidates — in particular, former City Council Member Melvin Carter — with whom we also met again last week. Carter, whose thoughtful campaign, efficient organization and smart ideas about our changing city do him credit, makes a critical point about no longer approaching diversity as “a problem to fix.” Instead, it should be an asset that can help St. Paul compete in a global economy. Win or lose, we hope Carter continues to work for the ideas he believes will make St. Paul better for all.
In addition, we’ve appreciated the emphasis on living-wage, family-supporting jobs that former school board member Tom Goldstein brings to the race, as well as the hardworking, outreach-based campaign run by Elizabeth Dickinson, a motivational speaker, author and life coach. We thank City Council Member Dai Thao for sharing how his life experience, including time in a refugee camp in Thailand, influences his drive to help others on the path to prosperity.
It should be noted that voting for the major candidates and the five others who filed for mayor already is underway via absentee ballot. In-person early voting begins Oct. 31 at six locations in St. Paul and Ramsey County. Details and information on the city’s ranked voting process are at rcelections.org.
That process — about which we’ve been, and remain, dubious — will allow voters to rank up to six candidates in order of preference. We present no options for ranking, preferring to put the full weight of our endorsement behind Harris and his experience.
We know there will be disagreement with that, and it’s welcome on these pages. In the little more than three weeks that remain until Election Day, it’s a conversation that counts. St. Paul’s future depends on it.