Author Archives: stpauldfl

Meet the candidates: Zuki Ellis for School Board

Next up: Zuki Ellis, DFL endorsed candidate for School Board! Here are Zuki’s answers to our questions:

Why did you decide to run?

Four years ago, I launched my run for school board from a place of anger, and of passionate belief that our district could do better. Advocating for my youngest child, navigating the district for support, trying to bridge home, school, district resources – all these things were frustrating, painful and maddening. I felt a parent perspective was needed. 

I am a graduate of St Paul Public Schools. I am proud of that. I’m a child of this city, this district and this community. It worked for me, and it needs to work for all of our kids. This is something that I take very seriously.

Zuki ELlis photo

I am still working to change our board policy, our practice – to ensure our belief in students and support for the amazing people who work in SPPS is steadfast. I believe we now have the right leadership and the right plan to give our kids what they need to succeed.

I decided to run for re-election because I feel like I have more to contribute to our students, our families and the community. I am excited for the future of the district and we need to bring new energy to old ideas and be flexible to the changes that can, should, and will happen in education.

What’s your vision for the St.Paul School District 30 years from now and advice for the Class of 2049?

In 30+ years I would like to be walking into St Paul Public schools as a grandparent. To share the history of the district, it’s growth, it’s impact on the city; and to celebrate the accomplishments of past graduates from SPPS. I want to hear from the new leaders that graduated to become educators, building engineers, school board members, the Mayor, city council members, the governor, doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, and to careers in trades. 

I’d like St Paul Public Schools to have Mechanic Arts High School reboot to see the highest enrolled trades high school in MN. The vision of St Paul being innovative in education, creating educational pathways that are student led, community based and fully funded. 

And my advice: I was sitting where you are once. I didn’t think about being a school board member when I was in that chair. I need you to picture yourself being and creating in a role of leadership in your community, and to think about service and how you want to give back. Dream big, work hard, play, take risks, explore, and always be a student, always be willing to be reflective, and never stop learning new things.

How do you plan to govern in a way that is inclusive, creative and equitable?

As board member and chair of the BOE these past two years, I have formed trusting relationships with our staff, families and students. I’ve visited all of our 59 different schools, many times. I’ve grown in my knowledge of education and the district, and I’ve used that expertise to help make change that matters.

Zuki LogoExperience counts. Relationships count. There’s still work to be done. I’m still fired up and still have the passion necessary to do the hard work this job requires. I hope to earn your vote because I listen to all our communities, I am an active director, and I am driven by love for and belief in everything our kids can be.


What’s the last book you read?

I read multiple books at the same time. I am reading The White Architects of Black Education by William H. Watkins and Akita Warrior by NNedi Okorafor.

Name one previous teacher/ administrator who left a lasting impact on your life?

My 3rd grade teacher Ms. Laurie is someone who has had a lasting impact on my life. She told me I was smart, she was able to tap into my creative side, and she challenged me to be and do my best. Ms. Laurie always made a tough day so much easier with words of encouragement, a calligraphy pen, and a hug.zukiellis_kickoff_1

Ms. Laurie still checks up on me. Even though she said I could call her by her first name, I won’t do that. Ms. Laurie is still my teacher.

Connect with Zuki’s campaign online at or on Facebook at




Meet the Candidates: Jane Prince for Ward 7

Next up: Council Member Jane Prince for Ward 7! Here are Jane’s answers to our questions:

Why did you decide to run?

I love my East Side community and I love Saint Paul. Having had the opportunity to work in the Mayor Latimer Administration and as a legislative aide to Ward 4 City Councilmember Jay Benanav, I developed a strong belief in the power of local Jane Prince Headshot.012319 government to engage and involve communities in becoming the best they can be. I love that one phone call to my office can reveal an issue or problem that we can solve together. Every call I get from a constituent represents an opportunity to work together on a better Saint Paul.

How do you see your ward 30 years from now?

My ward is among the most multiculturally diverse communities in the Twin Cities metropolitan area, and is also young, with a median age of about 30.  I expect that in 30 years, thanks to  our efforts now to develop housing for all, to support economic growth and create good living wage jobs, that we’ll be a thriving destination for people seeking a vibrant and authentic multicultural environment in which to live, work and play.

How do you plan to govern in a way that is inclusive, creative and equitable?

I will continue to work hard to reach out to and stand with the constituents of my diverse district to help fulfill the vision of the kind of East Side they want to create together.

What’s the last book you read? 

The last book I read was White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo.  I’m now reading Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Hero, by Larry Tye.

Favorite restaurant/ dish in St. Paul or your ward. 

Broccoli and cheese papusas at Manana’s Salvadoran Restaurant & Papuseria, 798 East 7th Street

Tell us a fun fact about your ward.   

Two U.S. Supreme Court justices who served contemporaneously, Warren Burger and Harry Blackmun, both grew up within blocks of each other in Ward 7’s Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood. They were in the same scout troop, graduated high school together and were in each other’s weddings. Both appointed to the court by Richard Nixon, Justice Burger’s record on the court was a much more conservative one than Justice Blackmun’s who wrote the decision for the court in Roe v. Wade.

Visit Jane’s campaign online at or on Facebook at

Meet the Candidates: Amy Brendmoen for Ward 5

We are really happy to bring you news and information from Council President Amy Brendmoen! Here are her answers to our questions:

Why did you decide to run?

I first ran in 2011 when there was only one woman on the Saint Paul City Council plus a combined 68 years of incumbency among the members. I believed that the perspective of someone who started her life in public housing with a teenage mom and little sister, found her way through college andBrendmoen 4 worked in all three sectors, and then had three little kids in the SPPS would be a welcome and needed addition to this important, local  decision-making body. It turned out that many others believed that too. Today, only 8 years later, I serve as the council President with the first female-majority council in the history of Saint Paul. I am still an energized change-maker now with the experience and chops to make things happen.

How do you see your ward 30 years from now?

Saint Paul is changing and growing at a rapid pace. I think as soon as the 2020 census is completed, we may see dramatic changes in the size, shape and number of wards in the Brendmoen 3city! By 2050, I imagine a clear, healthy Como Lake thanks to the advocacy and efforts of neighbors. I envision a large, thriving community campus on Rice Street that serves a wonderfully diverse community. I picture a near East Side with transit connected neighborhoods. And I see Railroad Island as a thriving downtown neighborhood.

How do you plan to govern in a way that is inclusive, creative and equitable?

I am constantly seeking, creating and implementing ways to meaningfully engage community members in governing. Some examples: I have walked with community members over 200 times around Como Lake, listening to their great ideas or concerns and making plans for action. I seek out new leaders from my ward’s diverse, youthful community and help connect them with leadership and growth opportunities. This year I instituted a public input session at the front end of the city’s budget process so folks could meet with their Council Members Brendmoen 1in person to discuss the budget to allow plenty of time for their input to make an impact. These examples are the tip of the iceberg.

What’s the last book you read?

After toting it around for two years, I finally devoured “Evicted” by Matthew Desmond. A must read.

Favorite restaurant/ dish in St. Paul or your ward.

I love to sample menus at our many Ward 5 Thai/Karen/Vietnamese restaurants – everything on their menus is satisfying and delicious. The best modern cuisine in the metro can be found at “Tongue in Cheek” on Payne Ave.

Tell us a fun fact about your ward. 

There are exactly zero coffee shops in Ward 5. Help me change that, all you entrepreneurs!

Amy’s campaign website is: and she is on facebook at:

Meet the Candidates: Mitra Jalali Nelson for Ward 4!

Next up in our DFL Candidate series–Mitra Jalali Nelson, Ward 4 Council Member. We asked Mitra a few questions too. Here are her answers:

Why did you decide to run?

I ran for City Council in 2018 to be a new progressive voice for the future of our city. I’m running for my first full term this year to keep leading change in Mitra 2four key areas: attainable and affordable housing and home ownership, community-first public safety, transportation and sustainability, and building our community wealth. I’m also running to do something much bigger and deeper, which is to change the way our government engages with residents. I believe that no matter how long you’ve lived here or where you call home, you have a stake and a say in the future of our city. In this time of great change and potential for our city’s future, I’m running to keep organizing for progress that brings all of us with it.

How do you see your ward 30 years from now? 

I would love our part of the city, and all of St. Paul, to be a thriving, safe community where everybody has a great place to live, a well-paying job that amply covers the costs Mitra 3of living and gives people something leftover to save or reinvest in our local economy, where our city-funded parks and library systems are even more equitable and accessible to all kids and families, where public transportation is free and equitably built out throughout our city to reduce our dependency on cars, where our imagination around public safety has grown beyond punishment and incarceration to instead support a range of interventions for youth and people struggling with a range of issues, where our elected and community leaders fully reflect the experiences and values of those who live here, and where everyone can fully be who they are.

How do you plan to govern in a way that is inclusive, creative and equitable?

I ran for City Council not only to take action on the issues facing our city’s future, but to change the way our city engages with residents. I’ve returned Mitra 4regular office hours to Ward 4 in all our neighborhoods, have pushed for district council reform and resources to ensure these city-funded engagement bodies are more innovative and representative, organized our first-ever Renter Voice Summit and am leading the 2020 Census effort in Ramsey County so that all of us can be counted. I ran to bring everybody to the table, and I’m running again to keep opening up our processes to all.

What’s the last book you read?

I’m currently reading The Green New Deal by Jeremy Rifkin. It lays out the case for a massive rethinking and public investment in our economic and energy infrastructure for both action on climate and a more sustainable world.

Mitra 6

Favorite restaurant/ dish in St. Paul or your ward.

On’s Thai Kitchen off the Snelling stop of the Green Line is the undefeated champion.

Tell us a fun fact about your ward.  

Nearly half of all local St. Paul breweries are located in Ward 4, and we also have the first-ever Ethiopian consulate office, the longtime Eritrean Community Center, historic Korean, African and African-American businesses in the Midway, and so many more unique ‘first’ or ‘historic’ features that tell our diverse city story.  I’m so proud to represent us at City Hall!

Mitra July 4 parade

Visit Mitra’s campaign online at:

Connect with Mitra’s campaign on Facebook at:

Meet the Candidates: Chris Tolbert for Ward 3!

Next up: DFL endorsed Chris Tolbert for Ward 3 City Council! Here are a few questions we asked Chris:

Why did you decide to run?

Tolbert 1.jpg

It is an honor and a privilege to represent Ward 3 on the St. Paul City Council. We have accomplished so much to make Mac-Groveland, West Seventh, Highland Park and all of St. Paul a better place for all people. However, we still have much to do to ensure that St. Paul continues to be the city that offers opportunity, safety, and prosperity for all. That is why I am asking for your support, as I seek reelection to represent you and our neighborhood on the St. Paul City Council.

How do you see your ward 30 years from now?

Together, over the last seven years we have succeeded in making major strides in transportation, housing, and for living wage jobs in St. Paul. We have made St. Paul a more vibrant, welcoming, and modern city. And we can continue that momentum and ensure that St. Paul is vibrant and opportunity is available for everyone— now and for generations to come.

Tolbert 3My vision for the future of Ward 3 & St. Paul is a community where every child has an opportunity to succeed, where every adult has a safe, affordable, place to live and a family providing job, and every aging resident can live in dignity.  I believe we can do this by moving our city forward, while still honoring the things that have made St. Paul a special place for decades.

How do you plan to govern in a way that is inclusive, creative and equitable?

Governing in an inclusive, creative and equitable way is the only way to govern as a representative of the people.  The more we can engage, listen, and learn from as many diverse stakeholders— particularly stakeholders that historically have been under represented or made to feel unwelcome—  is vital for good government as well as good decision making.  As I have during my time on the City Council, I will seek out people and their advice, whether that means individual conversations in the neighborhood, phone calls, email exchanges, community meetings, going into their living-rooms, door knocking, or other ways to communicate with people.  If re-elected, I will continue to be an engaged, open-minded and accessible councilmember, because robust discussion pushes me to be a better representative.

What’s the last book you read?

I just had the pleasure of re-reading Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. The book is just as fantastic as an adult as it was as a kid. Tolbert 2

Tell us a fun fact about your ward.  

It was once called “Old Rum Town.”

Favorite restaurant/ dish in your ward?

Highland Grill’s sweet potato fries or hash browns.


Visit Chris’ campaign website at

Connect with him on Facebook at


Meet the Candidates: Rebecca Noecker for Ward 2!

Rebecca Noecker is the DFL endorsed city council candidate running in Ward 2. We asked Rebecca a few questions that we want to share with you.

Why did you decide to run?

Noecker Family-5.jpg

I decided to run for office because I wanted to do my part to make my community better.  I love people, I love solving complex problems and I don’t shy away from tough decisions – so politics has always appealed to me.  I grew up in a family that was always involved in the community from building neighborhood playgrounds to serving on school committees.  My Jewish faith has instilled in me the belief that engaging in the life of the community is not an option – it’s a responsibility. From my experience teaching middle school in a low-income neighborhood in Baton Rouge to working at non-profits in India and Uganda,  I’ve seen how communities can suffer when government is dysfunctional, exclusive or interested only in serving the privileged. I strive every day to be a different kind of public servant, to listen closely, meet people where they are, share my thoughts honestly and work hard to get things done for my constituents.

How do you see your ward 30 years from now?

In 2049, I hope Ward 2 will be a bustling, healthy place where our neighborhoods have grown to accommodate our increased population while retaining their unique identities.  I hope we have Noecker Family-8better transit options and safer roads, especially on W. 7th St, Grand Ave, Lexington and Cesar Chavez. I hope our streets are in better repair because we have found dedicated revenue to do the maintenance our roads need every year.  New businesses should be opening in our neighborhoods, providing essential, walkable services to residents and also shouldering more of our tax burden. All St. Paul families will be thriving because our neighborhoods are home to hundreds of more units of affordable housing, our $15 minimum wage and earned sick and safe time ordinances are in full effect, and all St. Paul families have access to high-quality, affordable early childhood education.

How do you plan to govern in a way that is inclusive, creative and equitable?

I believe the best way to represent the people of Ward 2 is to listen to as many residents, business owners and other stakeholders as often as I can.  I hold regular Community Coffees and Happy Hours in all Ward 2 neighborhoods to hear my constituents’ ideas and concerns. I’m always open to new ways of doing things – I never assume that we’ve got it all figured out. TheNoecker Family-3 best parts of my first term have been working collaboratively with neighbors and City staff to get things done. Revamping our skyway code of conduct to make our skyways cleaner and safer, building a new emergency homeless shelter downtown and saving our city’s oldest public building–the Hope Fire Station–were all ideas that originated or were pushed by constituents and I was grateful to be able to help make them happen.

What’s the last book you read? 

I’m just wrapping up Ants Among Elephants, a memoir by a young woman whose father grew up as a member of an untouchable caste in India shortly after independence.  It’s fascinating to compare Indians’ struggles for self-determination with the work confronting us in our own community today to make sure all our residents have the opportunity to live in safety, to prosper and to determine their own future.

Favorite restaurant/ dish in St. Paul or your ward. 

This is a nearly impossible choice! Ward 2 has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to great dining locations. One of my favorite morning spots is Cafe Astoria – I go for the neighborhood feel, the friendly staff and the delicious, invigorating coffee.


Tell us a fun fact about your ward. 

Ward 2 contains the only neighborhood in St. Paul that was made part of the United States by President Thomas Jefferson in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.  (The West Side.)

Noecker Family-18

To learn more about Rebecca and her campaign, visit 

or on facebook at


Updated dates (posted 9/23/19)

The election is right around the corner and we hope you can join us in getting out our neighbors out to the polls.  Give Beth a shout at 651/247-7009 (text too) or on email at with questions!

DOW Date What Time Location
Thurs 26-Sep Coordinated Phone Bank 6-8:30pm AFSCME, 300 Hardman Ave. South, South St. Paul, 55075
Sat 28-Sep Payne Avenue Harvestfest Parade noon start, line up begins at 10am Line up on Rose & Geranium Streets
Mon 30-Sep St. Paul DFL Central Committee Mtg 6-7pm MN DFL, 255 E Plato Blvd, St. Paul, MN 55107
Thurs 10-Oct Coordinated Phone Bank 6-8:30pm AFSCME, 300 Hardman Ave. South, South St. Paul, 55075
Thurs 17-Oct Coordinated Phone Bank 6-8:30pm AFSCME, 300 Hardman Ave. South, South St. Paul, 55075
Thurs 24-Oct St. Paul DFL Executive Committee Mtg & GOTV Phone bank 6-9pm AFSCME, 300 Hardman Ave. South, South St. Paul, 55075