GreenSaintPaul's goals are to elect principled, grassroots candidates to city offices, to create practical improvements in city policy and support bottom-up neighborhood projects that improve life in Saint Paul. Our efforts are fueled by the desire to live in a city that can meaningfully address issues in a way that reflects core values that many of our neighbors share: grassroots democracy, social and economic justice, environmental wisdom, and non-violence.
Click here to learn more about an important opportunity to get improved recycling and curbside composting in Saint Paul. We're calling on the Mayor and the City Council to include these improvements in the budget process going on right now.
The Green Party of Sant Paul worked hard to collect signatures and work with other organizations to pressure the City Council to adopt Ranked Choice Voting in 2009. The introduction of Ranked Choice Voting in Saint Paul presents a great opportunity to get more people involved, and bring the vision, values and ideas of the Green Party to Saint Paul city government.
We ran several candidates for local offices in 2011 to challenge incumbents in elections that would otherwise feature no voice advocating for our principles and demanding something better than the status quo. Our candidates earned second place in three elections (looking at first-choice preferences). We created a platform for improving Saint Paul, knocked on thousands of doors, and earned thousands of votes to support a progressive vision for a better city.
Please read about our platform and values by clicking the tabs above, and sign up to join us as we continue working to improve city policy and support grassroots candidates for office.
The Green Party of Saint Paul will take on the foreclosure crisis in two ways. First, by reducing the number of foreclosures by requiring banks to first sit down with homeowners to find another option. Second, by ameliorating the damage to neighborhoods caused by vacant and foreclosed homes.
Reduce Foreclosures by Requiring Mediation
According to HousingLink, there were over 2,600 foreclosures in Ramsey County in 2010. (HousingLink, 2010 Annual Foreclosures in Minnesota, available at www.housinglink.org) These rates are not letting up, despite the availability of government loan modification programs and a variety of other foreclosure alternatives.
Lenders often stand to make more money by agreeing to modify a loan than from foreclosing and taking possession of a devalued home in this depressed housing market. An affordable loan modification will allow the homeowner to stay in her home, and give the lender a steady income stream during the recession. However, the mortgage servicers who are responsible for arranging loan modifications are disorganized, under-staffed, and have a financial incentive to foreclose (Diane Thompson, Why Servicers Foreclose When They Should Modify and Other Puzzles of Servicer Behavior, National Consumer Law Center, October 2009). Homeowners who reach out for assistance get the run-around from servicers, and sometimes end up worse of than they were before they asked for help. (Chris Serres, Mortgage Help Can Turn Into Disaster, Star Tribune, January 26, 2011.)
St. Paul should establish a requirement that any servicer pursuing foreclosure against a St. Paul resident first sit down with the resident in meditation, and make a good faith attempt to reach an agreement that avoids foreclosure. This requirement will require servicers to slow down and look at a variety of options, rather than pushing foreclosures through the system without considering all the circumstances. While foreclosure would not be avoided in all cases, requiring mediation gives the homeowner a chance to work directly and constructively with a servicer to attempt to find a solution.
Providence, Rhode Island has implemented this policy by requiring lenders to sit down with the homeowner and an independent, third-party housing counselor. The city imposes a fine against any servicer who forecloses without first attempting mediation. This program upheld a court challenge by lenders who attempted to argue that state law governed foreclosures and therefore the city could not regulate them. (Providence R.I. Code of Ordinances, Ch. 13, Section 13-220; Phillip Marcelo, Providence Foreclosure-Meditation Law Upheld in Superior Court, The Providence Journal (May 10, 2010).
Ameliorate the Harm of Foreclosure with Increased Enforcement
St. Paul should adopt a plan for more aggressive enforcement of existing property codes as they apply to vacant properties, especially those held by financial institutions. As of February 2011, there were nearly 3,000 bank-owned foreclosed properties in St. Paul (February 19, 2011 search of www.realtytrac.com).
One of the ways that the foreclosure crisis hurts communities is by opening up empty pockets in neighborhoods, where little care may be paid to the land and housing while vacant. The City of St. Paul passed an ordinance in 2009 to make all people or companies with an ownership in the property responsible for its upkeep. (Chris Havens, New Ordinance Helps Clarify Ownership of Vacant St. Paul Properties, Star Tribune, June 3, 2009). This allows the city to enforce the housing code, snow shoveling requirements and nuisance laws even with regard to properties that have gone though the complicated mortgage securitization process. (Id.) This ordinance, and the city’s housing code should be enforced more aggressively to hold these financial institutions responsible for their properties that have become a public nuisance. Lenders should not be allowed to let a property sit vacant and uncared-for in hopes of waiting out the bad housing market.
Families with good access to transit spend just 9 percent of their household budget on transportation, as opposed to an average of 19 percent. (Center for Transit Oriented Development, Realizing the Potential: Expanding Housing Opportunities Near Transit, Executive Summary at 5, April 2007 (hereinafter “CTOD”)). This cost savings is crucial for low-income families.
In order to achieve good transit access for low income residents, cities must provide affordable housing where the transit is. This cannot be accomplished by the market alone. There are many obstacles to the development of mixed-income or low income housing along transit corridors. Land prices increase when a new transit project is announced; affordable housing developers do not have enough capital to purchase land before prices go up and hold it until it can be developed; and there are limited funds available for affordable housing development. (CTOD, Exec. Summary at 6.).
The City of Saint Paul, along wiht its neighbors, the Metropolitan Council and a variety of nonprofit and community development organizations, plays an important role in shaping development along transit corridors. (See CTOD, Chapter 7 at 111-112).
Saint Paul should set affordable housing policies along transit routes within city limits and make room for community involvement in the planning process; establish affordable housing funds to use for the acquisition and development of housing; and implement Transit Oriented Development zoning to encourage mixed uses and mixed-income housing, including affordable housing, along transit corridors.
When building affordable housing along transit corridors, regional coordiation is very important. However, according to a recent study by three local organizations, this isn’t happening in the Twin Cities. (Surface Transportation Policy Partnership, Transit for Livable Communities and Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Planning to Succeed?: An Assessment of Transportation and Land Use Decision-making in the Twin Cities Region at 25 (January 3, 2011)(hereinafter “Planning to Suceed?”).
The Green Party of Saint Paul will push city government to be proactive in coordinating with its neighbors and with the Metro Council to ensure that development along the central corridor includes safe, clean and affordable housing options that are part of a vibrant mix of mixed-income housing, businessess and shops.
St. Paul should aggressively promote our locally-owned, independent enterprises, and pursue the creation of new ones through programs that support and nurture entrepreneurs.
Local independents create more jobs in the community because they recycle three times more money back into the local economy than transnational corporations, on a per-dollar-spent basis. Local owners are more likely to care about keeping jobs in the community and supporting policies and programs that keep the community strong.
The Green Party of Saint Paul advocates for a variety of policies and initiatives that will support our local small businesses.
Buy Local Campaign
A “Buy Local” promotional campaign would be a coordinated effort of the city along with neighborhood business associations, trade associations and non-profits. A campaign to encourage St. Paul residents to support their local businesses will increase the flow of dollars into the local economy.
Require a Minimum of Non-Formula Businesses in Large Developments
St. Paul should pass an ordinance establishing a minimum percentage of square footage occupied by non-formula businesses in any new large development or redevelopment.
A formula business is one in which the character of the business (from signage, promotions and merchandise to uniforms and business policies) is carefully dictated by a national or regional entity, so that each physical location looks like it is the result of a single formula. A typical chain retail store fits into this category. The City of Saint Paul has the power to regulate the character of development within its borders, including formula practices.
Large developments significantly alter the economic and cultural landscape of a neighborhood, and the public interest in shaping such developments is already established in our city’s processes and conditions. By adding a requirement that a minimum percentage of floor space go to non-formula businesses, we would add local and independent character to the list that defines the public interest. This would strengthen a healthy dynamic between developers and local entrepreneurs
Establish a Maximum Cap on the Size of Big Box Retail
St. Paul should establish a maximum cap on the square footage of a retail store’s footprint, called a “retail size cap.”
A retail size cap would discourage further big box-style developments in St. Paul and instead promote the style of development that features density of jobs, density of property/sales tax, integrated housing, and a diverse mix of locally-owned, independent retail.
Allow Neighborhoods to Opt-in to a Formula Store Limit
St. Paul should pass an ordinance that allows neighborhoods to opt-in to an overlay district that establishes a limit on the number (or percentage) of formula businesses.
A number of cities around the country have adopted this type of ordinance in order to protect and enhance the unique character of business in their communities. Some ban formula stores entirely, others set a limit, and yet others give a planning commission authority to approve or deny a formula store property use.
An ordinance like this in Saint Paul would give each neighborhood the power to choose what types of businesses they want to have in their community. If, for example, neighborhoods along University Avenue or Grand Avenue decided to opt-into such a limit on formula stores, they would achieve immediate protection for the predominately local and independent character of their business corridors. Such a limit would reduce the upward pressure that big chains put on rents and give independent businesses a continuing opportunity to compete and thrive. This opportunity would be achieved without significant cost to the city.
The Green Party of Saint Paul wants to establish a program that actively promotes Community-Supported Agriculture and Farmers’ Markets, educates residents about the economic and personal benefits of local food, and makes it incredibly easy for residents in every neighborhood to participate.
Food prepared from fresh ingredients contributes to healthy lifestyles. Purchasing food from regional farmers makes for a stronger Minnesota, and contributes to a culture that values the local economy and cares about the local environment.
Existing Farmers’ Markets and Community-Supported Agriculture programs (CSA: where a household pays up-front for a share of the a farm’s produce that year) have established significant interest. St. Paul can draw these initiatives together into a citywide program that makes it incredibly easy for residents in every neighborhood to participate. Such a program might include: