Chris Coleman

Count us among the cynics when it came to Chris Coleman's 2005 mayoral campaign. The former St. Paul City Council member, renowned for his moderation and ambition during the six years he served on that body, suddenly emerged as a beacon of liberalism. With voter ire at then-Mayor Randy Kelly stoked over his endorsement of President Bush, it seemed like an all-too-convenient transformation. But after humiliating the incumbent by a nearly two-to-one margin, Coleman has proven that the campaign rhetoric was not empty. He's followed through on his two biggest promises of the campaign season, enacting a stringent smoking ban and significantly beefing up the city's living-wage ordinance. Coleman also launched a comprehensive review of the city's shabby record in working with minority contractors, along with a top-to-bottom audit of the fire department. But perhaps Coleman's most significant achievement during his first year was in dealing with the city's woeful financial situation. The Kelly administration was notorious for raiding every pot of money available in order to avoid raising property taxes. The end result: a $16.5 million deficit in 2006. Coleman worked with the City Council to adopt an increase in the property tax levy of 8.5 percent. While that might sound profligate, the bump amounted to roughly $50 for the median St. Paul homeowner. In return, the city was able to hire 26 additional cops and avoid cutting library hours. Whether Coleman ultimately proves to be the liberal savior that voters witnessed on the campaign trail now seems irrelevant. Municipal governance, as he's undoubtedly learned, leaves little room for political ideology. It's all about dollars and sense.


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