Ward 3 candidate Kristen Spencer’s interactions with residents: part 1

Kristen Spencer, Maplewood Ward 3 city council candidate, in the August 8 special election, says she has been walking Maplewood and talking to the residents. She shares some thoughts here.

I have been spending a lot of time getting to know Maplewood residents in depth by asking people what they love most about Maplewood and what they would like to see improved. I want to showcase the praises and concerns that our neighbors have about Maplewood and share how I would address these issues if elected to the council. The quotes below represent sentiments from actual Ward 3 residents.

“I love The Maple Leaf!”
“I don’t think our city council is transparent.”

Like ‘Schoolhouse Rock!’ says, “Knowledge is power.” If the council engages the electorate and keeps them informed, residents will feel more involved. Communication is an effective tool to provide knowledge to residents about issues. With this knowledge, people can use their voice by voting in local elections such as this one or serving on boards to shape the future of Maplewood.

Listening to residents has to be a priority.

One way to do this is to survey residents to gauge their three most important issues. Another way to facilitate two-way communication is to establish an opportunity for the mayor and council to meet several times a year with residents in an informal setting. It is not enough to hold meetings that people can attend at city hall. Elected representatives need to go to where the people are. Having meet-and-greets at a park or restaurant can be less intimidating and encourage genuine conversation.

“The nuisance ordinance lawsuit really upset me.”

The impact of this ordinance hurts my heart. I do not think that Maplewood intentionally set out to discriminate against people with the nuisance ordinance. Nor have all of the facts for this case been presented. However, no matter the intent of the ordinance, the public perception and real life situation have shown that this ordinance needs to be updated. This has negatively impacted our neighbors in the community, damaged our reputation as a city, and drawn negative attention nationally. This ordinance as currently written is not who we are. Some suggestions:

  • Hold a town hall to specifically discuss the current nuisance ordinance
  • Update the Maplewood ordinances to reflect the current needs of our residents in a respectful and considerate manner
  • Review other cities’ ordinance policies and look for ones who have incorporated best practices into their policies
  • Have a speaker series at the library with topics such a race relations, unconscious bias, privilege, domestic violence, and resources already available in the community

Another quote:

“My rent is increasing.”

Maplewood needs more affordable housing options. Affordable housing can enable people to both live and work in Maplewood. It can promote social, cultural, and economic diversity within Maplewood. This diversity is what makes our city attractive, and we need to continue to create policies that support our diversity. Maplewood has so much going for it as a city that I want to make sure people of all economic levels have the opportunity to live here.

“There needs to be a tunnel going directly from our house to Strange Donuts.”

While I do not have a way to make this feasible, I certainly appreciate the Maplewood spirit of this individual’s comment!

I will share part two of the praises and concerns by Ward 3 residents soon. In the meantime, I will be walking around the city, and I’m looking forward to meeting with as many residents as possible.

Kristen Spencer, Ward 3 City Council Candidate

Also running for the vacant Maplewood Ward 3 seat are Steve Terelmes and Jennifer Schmidt.

See also: Ward 3 candidate Kristen Spencer’s interactions with residents: part 2, 3 on final ballot for Maplewood council race


11 thoughts on “Ward 3 candidate Kristen Spencer’s interactions with residents: part 1

  1. I have a question for all those running for council: do you live on a block with any section 8 housing, and, I mean, specifically, section 8 housing??? If the answer from any of you is “yes”, then I would love to hear more from you about your experiences. If the answer is “no”, then I have no interest in hearing from you about living next to section 8 housing. If you do not live next door to it, *as I do*, then you truly have NO IDEA.

    Maplewood is diverse, and that is wonderful. But, there is enough section 8 housing in Maplewood! There is also more than enough rental housing in Maplewood–too much, in fact. But, aside from some multi-family homes being retro-fitted back into single family homes, that statistic cannot really be un-done. REPEAT: Maplewood already has too high of a percentage of rental housing and that is NOT necessarily a good thing, even for a diverse community. I am not being racist nor elitist–this is simply a fact as per any logical city planning guidelines. Yes, other types of housing should be available and whenever possible, made affordable, of course. But the free market drives prices and we are still a free market society. If home prices increase, the rents will probably also increase. That is the nature of free market. But there is enough section 8 housing in Maplewood. REPEAT: Maplewood does NOT need more section 8 housing!

    • I totally agree- way too many rentals stuck between beautiful homes which devalues them. The section eight areas are fairly rowdy. I feel bad for the residents who live by them.

  2. I think the “newcomers” to Maplewood should realize that it is the “old-timers” of Maplewood who have kept this wonderful community going, when others deemed it not so desirable. Maplewood has had a wonderful flavor for years. Let’s not lose that by becoming a community which pushes out those good people who have kept this place afloat for years.

  3. Maplewood is already a diverse community and housing here is way more affordable than other nearby cities. So I’m not sure what the quote, “my rent is increasing” and We need more affordable housing” is supposed to imply. More Section 8?

    • We don’t need more affordable housing. We have a LOT of that.

      Home prices and taxes are increasing, so obviously rent is going to increase. I agree somewhat that affordable housing should be a goal, but Maplewood is becoming a premiere neighborhood to live in, and we don’t want to break that. If people want to live here, the cost will continue to go up and a consequence of that is poor and elderly folks being pushed out.

      • I agree with Cindy. The cost increase for renting here is likely due to increasing Real Estate taxes paid by property owners. That cost is passed along in increased rent…and rightfully so.

        I certainly don’t think it’s in the best interest of this community to start advocating for more low-income housing, which is what “affordable housing” mostly refers to. Like I said, we are already a diverse community and house prices here for buyers are still very affordable in this “now sought after” neighborhood. Let’s keep it that way and not go downhill.

        • Michele and Cindy, Thank you for sharing your thoughts on affordable housing and rent increases. These are tough topics that have many layers and lack clear-cut answers. One of the things that drew me to Maplewood was its diversity. On my block alone, there is a three story brick house, a small frame house, several rental homes, and homes that have been in the same family for generations; this is an example of what gives Maplewood its character. Over half of residents in Maplewood rent. I believe that Maplewood can continue to prosper while still providing housing for all income levels. Encouraging diversity through affordable housing brings a wealth of different experiences and opinions that can be beneficial when tackling tough issues. This article does a good job explaining the multiple benefits affordable housing provides for a city while debunking misconceptions: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4933022/. Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts, and I hope to meet you while I am walking around Maplewood.

        • When people hear affordable housing, I think most jump to the conclusion of increasing Section 8 units. But there are many ways to address affordable housing in Maplewood that have nothing to do with that. For one, supply and demand is becoming skewed. As people want to move to our district, there are not enough options, driving the prices of the remaining housing stock up. Duplexes, four units, accessory dwelling units, etc. interspersed within our neighborhoods would add variety of housing, increase supply and level out prices. Two, our zoning codes makes housing unaffordable. Consider the ordinance that all new homes must be lined on three sides with brick. Any home built quickly becomes $30-$45k more expensive, just to meet an aesthetic appeal. That’s not affordable. Minimums on the size of lots, the size of homes, the types of dwelling allowed on each block. They all drive the cost of construction up, decrease the diversity of housing stock, and essentially decrease the diversity of our neighborhoods. What works for a couple without kids, versus a mom with kids, versus a multi-generational family, versus grandma, is wildly different, yet our housing stock offers two options, rental apartments or 1900’s single family homes. And our zoning laws are enforced to create a very singular vision of housing. That would be like Disneyland trying to attract more diverse guests, but only offering the It’s a Small World and Pirates of the Caribbean rides…you’ll get two types of people. So to me, affordable housing for promoting diversity means so much more beyond Section 8, and I hope that the council members share that vision.

          • Last time I checked, property values/home values rising was considered a good thing for a neighborhood.