Last year I moved from Minneapolis to a neighboring suburb, Edina. One of the downsides of moving was that I would no longer get local political coverage from the amazing Naomi Kritzer, who each year writes up detailed reports on twin cities-area elections. While I can still read her blog for statewide elections, she does not generally cover suburban city council races.
I took matters into my own hands and researched the city council race myself. I found it surprisingly fun to dig into. Most candidates’ websites were lacking details (or nonexistant), so much of my information comes from the candidate forum, the latest About Town magazine, and talking to candidates in person.
The Edina city council is composed of four members and a mayor. Each member serves a four-year term. Two seats go up for election every other year. Election day is November 6th, but you can already vote by absentee now if you wish.
There are six registered candidates running for two city council seats:
Stan Davis is running because he’s mad at the city council over the Arden Park restoration project. He was one of the leaders of the group who tried to stop the project, but it’s going forward anyways. In response he’s running for city council.
He has no website nor political past beyond objecting to the Arden Park changes that I could find. During the forum, he regularly took shots at the two incumbents and came off as kind of a jerk. He also often admitted he didn’t know about various aspects of city management.
While I appreciate his candor, I’d rather have someone with more breadth of experience and vision than someone who is just angry at the city council over one project. I would not vote for Davis.
If you hate that Edina is growing, then Ron Anderson is your man.
He’s a single-issue candidate, and that issue is slowing/stopping growth and development. His website talks about nothing but, and he talked about little else during the forum as well. This man does not like a growing Edina.
He’s especially harsh on the Grandview Green project, aka “the lid.” I’m not sure where I stand on the lid myself, but as far as I can tell this project is many years from getting off the ground. Anderson paints the lid as if we have to stop it this year or it’ll happen for sure, which just doesn’t seem true.
Update 10/12/2018: The city council has affirmed that the lid is not happening anytime soon, so I stand by my statement that Anderson's warnings about the lid are overblown.
If you’re looking for political views outside of growth and development - he seems to have been relatively uninvolved with politics up until now. Most of his city council forum answers somehow led back to growth and development, too, so it’s hard to say where he stands on anything but that topic. He seems to be pro-communication between the council and citizens, but really, what politician would say otherwise?
Anderson seems like a competent individual and I’m sure he would fulfill the rest of the duties of a councilperson, and regulating development is a big part of being on the city council. But really, the only reason to vote for him is if you are on board with his strict anti-growth and development platform. I’m not quite as concerned about growth in Edina as Anderson, so I’m not voting for him.
Ray Meifert is rather similar to Ron Anderson: a very strong focus on growth & development.
However, they take different angles on the matter. While Anderson seems to be opposed to growth in general, Meifert simply wants to regulate how development is done in the city. His concern appears to be around the maintaining the city as it is, rather than letting developers change the nature of Edina (e.g. teardown ranch-style houses and replace them with mansions).
Again, I’m not sure I want to elect someone who is so single-minded about being on the city council. But more importantly, during the forum, Meifert’s answer about inclusiveness is just awful. He seems to think people are trying to force diversity on Edina, which is far off the mark - the reason the city council started a diversity initiative was because a black man was arrested simply for walking on the streets of Edina two years ago. I don’t think it’s “forcing diversity” to prevent something like that incident from happening again.
So - no to Meifert for me.
I feel very conflicted about Janet Kitui.
On the one hand, I agree with most of her positions. Yes, we should increase representation on the city council (which is mostly white men). Yes, we should make Edina more inclusive. Yes, we should have affordable housing. Yes, we should help the environment.
On the other hand - it’s easy to agree with someone when they’re being vague, and most of Kitui’s answers during the forum and in About Town were pretty broad. For example, see her response on sustainability in Edina. She said she would “create policies to encourage our citizens” to protect the environment. Which - great! I’m on board. But what does that mean, exactly? Even one specific would be helpful to know what she’s going for, but rarely does the answer go deeper than surface level.
I also worry that some of her stances border on unrealistic. I got a chance to speak with her about affordable housing, and if I remember correctly she proposed limiting house prices… then admitted a couple sentences later that that might not actually be something you can do on the city council. During the forum she also mentions installing mass transit in Edina to fix traffic issues, which I am extremely skeptical would ever fly here.
Her most focused response during the forum - by far - was about inclusivity, wherein she wanted to implement citizen oversight of the police force. Inclusivity is clearly her wheelhouse, so if that’s your most important issue, Kitui should get your vote.
Kevin Staunton (Incumbent)
Kevin Staunton has been on the city council for one term; he’s seeking re-election this year. Before that, he was on the Edina Planning Commission for eight years.
Staunton seems to take a balanced approach to running Edina. A lot of his answers on the forum delved into nuances that others did not get close to matching. I also liked his general sentiment on wanting to work together, which I think is a nice message given the general state of politics these days.
Regarding development, he seems interested in keeping the low-density housing present, but selectively developing other parts of the city as necessary for growth and affordability, which all seems reasonable to me. On top of that, I’m a fan of his interest in sustainable development and reducing carbon footprints.
Staunton has a large focus on inclusiveness on his website, and his discussion of inclusiveness during the forum was great - he seemed genuinely upset by diversity issues in the city and I think he’d be a good ally in this area.
Bob Stewart (Incumbent)
Like Staunton, Bob Stewart has been on the city council for one term and is seeking re-election.
Stewart’s overall position seems to be “I’m competent and qualified.” His website is by far the most polished and has tons of information on his views, all of which look good to me. Much like Staunton, he has a lot more nuanced answers to problems and seems to look towards balanced, realistic solutions - e.g., instead of “stop all development”, it’s “develop intelligently, and here’s how.”
Going through my notes on his forum answers, positions on his website, and articles I could dredge up from the Star Tribune, I find myself nodding my head along to just about everything he said. He’s pro-inclusiveness, pro-affordable housing, and pro-growth (at a reasonable rate). Overall, he seems like a solid civic worker who puts thought into the decisions he’s making.
If I were to distinguish him from Staunton, it seems like Stewart has more of a focus on fiscal responsibility. Stewart seems intent on making sure Edina remains fiscally solvent.
I’ll be voting for both incumbents - Kevin Staunton and Bob Stewart. They both seem like effective civil servants and their views line up with mine with many of the choices they’ve made over the past term.
The only person I might’ve picked over them would be Janet Kitui, mainly to increase representation on the city board. But, I’m not convinced she would be as effective as Staunton or Stewart. I just wish she had given some more solid answers during the forum, or had any more writing online, to justify a vote for her. On top of that, both Staunton and Stewart seem fully on board with the race & equity initiative in Edina, so it’s not like we’ve got opposing viewpoints here - it’s more that Kitui would probably be slightly more effective on inclusion.