Yestrday, I wrote about Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman’s Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman’s budget proposal, which attacks an awful lot of spending that directly impacts the public. As I wrote yesterday, I suspect that’s the goal; to scare people into demanding more taxes at all levels.
In the meantime, property taxes are up sharply – 40-50% in many cases, and slated for more – even as services are slashed, crime rises,and vacant homes spatter the cityscape.
So what do we do about this?
Well, if you’re a Saint Paul Republican, the traditional answer is “grit your teeth”. The GOP in the Fourth District doesn’t really do a whole lot. And in all of Saint Paul, there is precisely one elected Republican official – School Board member Tom Conlon.
Living in a one-party city causes all sorts of problems for any “opposition” parties in town. Leaving aside the obvious – one party controls all levers of city government – the big problem is that the public discourse is entirely framed, in the citizens’ minds, by the arguments one side makes. The opposition never even registers on the radar.
Now, the GOP in Saint Paul and the Fourth District tries,after a fashion; they run candidates for Congress (Ed Matthews thrashed Betty McCollum in the debates) and for most state legislative races – but it’s all very perfunctory. The most demoralizing part? Legislative district conventions kick off, frequently, with a stirring call from one state party functionary or another to…
…try to make a showing, to soak up DFL money and effort so it can’t go to challenge Republicans in stronger districts.
Who can’t get behind that?
The fact is, the GOP needs to do a couple of things.
- We need to form coalitions with other groups in Saint Paul, which are not necessarily Republican. Property rights is a huge issue in Saint Paul; many property activists are Democrats. We need to find the obvious common cause.
- We need a coherent message. That can be hard for Republicans; we are the nation’s only big-tent party, which makes message discipline difficult. I’m going to suggest finding the things we agree on and hammering on them, and softpedaling the disagreements rather than trying to bash out acquiescence. To an extent, that means the Saint Paul GOP has to come to terms with the huge number of Ron Paul supporters that showed up last year. And by the way…
- The Ron Paul supporters will need to deliver. Running a guy for President is fun and all, but 99% of politics is local. Do you really want to see Rep. Paul’s message of civil liberty and low taxes implemented? Then you’re going to have to get together with enough other people, and find enough common ground,to make it connect with people who aren’t members of any party. Which means using that boundless energy you devoted to Rep. Paul, certainly. It also means compromising – something your experience on the Paul campaign didn’t teach you much about. So whaddya say?
- We’ll need to make a point of running conservative candidates for every single community council. The community councils are a traditional hotbed for of DFL-centric politics, and a breeding ground for DFL politicians. They are also where all the community development money in Saint Paul gets spent – and that is some serious political clout. In 2007 Republicans took over the Highland Park Council; last year, we got Republicans elected to two or three other councils. It’s a start – but we need to follow through. This means in every district, we’ll need people who volunteer to run for office, sure enough. It ALSO means we’ll need to get people to come out and vote for Republicans. These seats are winnable. And we need to, because this is where we develop talent for the next stop:
- In 2011, we’ll need to run credible candidates for City Council in all seven wards. Not just warm bodies on the ballot, mind you – we’ll need to find people who can take a campaign to the street; find people who can put in the shoe leather to help that battle; raise money to run seven serious campaigns; most of all, to get noticed, and noticed positively.
- In 2013, we’ll need to take a credible shot at the Mayor’s office.
To make it a real challenge – the Saint Paul GOP will need to do this, it seems, without any help from the State or CD4 GOPs.
So how does this happen?
More later this week.