Opinion: Maplewood’s Mayoral Election by Colin Bassett

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Opinion: Maplewood’s Mayoral Election
by Colin Bassett

Former city council member Sandi Phillips was one of my first connections in Maplewood city government. I am happy to have her both as a neighbor and a mentor. Like all of our current and recent city council members, Sandi has devoted her time, love, and energy to supporting the community, and she continues to do so. If you haven’t read it yet, she has posted a sincere and well-reasoned opinion statement online — I recommend reading it not only because it rises above much of the noise around Maplewood’s upcoming election, but also because it offers a valuable recounting of the city government in recent years. Like Sandi points out in her statement, municipal governments tend to operate at a very respectable slow pace that often goes unnoticed. The same is true for most of our vital social infrastructure — always grinding away in the background and tended to faithfully by city staff, elected officials, and community volunteers.

Sandi emphasizes this “glacial pace of city government” as part of her point that recent progress in Maplewood has not come overnight — it’s been the result of a long, slow process and the collective hard work of many community members. “We have all been working toward the same goals for our community,” Sandi writes, before claiming that if Barry Greenberg is elected, he will continue doing this same work. The sentiment, basically, is that all the good things we like about Maplewood’s progress came before Barry lost his re-election bid in 2021 and will continue on now if Barry returns to city hall in 2024. Apart from Barry’s failed campaign, there’s another glaring omission from Sandi’s recounting of the city government’s recent history — and that’s the election of Mayor Nikylan Knapper, Maplewood’s first-ever Black mayor. There’s probably a lot to be said about the erasure of the election of a powerful Black woman from Sandi Phillips’ statement, particularly the implicit suggestion that this historic moment really hasn’t been all that meaningful for Maplewood in the long run. Sandi draws a direct line from the departure of Maplewood city government heavyweight Marty Corcoran to herself and Barry Greenberg, along with a handful of other staff and council members, as the means by which Maplewood was going to “modernize” and, unlike the staid government of the past, become “proactive” in creating needed change. She’s not wrong, but her omission speaks volumes.

You can continue reading this opinion article on Medium.com:
One City’s Mayoral Election and What It Means for the Glacial Pace of Oppression

Editor: Colin Bassett is a Maplewood resident and zoning commissioner and a member of the faculty at Washington University in St. Louis. He is a volunteer for the Re-Elect Nikylan Knapper campaign.

 

31 COMMENTS

  1. Mayor Knapper and her supporters seem hell bent on framing ANY opposition, or even mere questioning, as racially motivated. I don’t get it.
    At this point, I’m realizing that in offering a difference of a opinion to the Mayor, I too could be labeled a white supremist.
    If I’m not mistaken, a debate was offered to both candidates, but I believe it was Mayor Knapper who declined. As a formerly undecided voter (new resident as of 2021), this would have been very helpful in knowing which candidate I was more aligned with. I have to wonder if this was another way to avoid hearing or understanding an alternative perspective.

    In the very least, articles like this do not help the Mayor’s campaign- especially when matters of transparency and inclusiveness are already in question. I fear if Mayor Knapper is re-elected, it will be another 4 years of silence by her constituents out of nothing more than fear.

    • ^^^Correct^^^

      And she embraces some of the really vicious ones with board appointments. Quid Pro Quo from the looks of it.

      One thing can be said about Mayor Knapper-she is a true politician through and through.

    • This is so far from the experience of so many of us who have never had such incredible access to our elected officials. Barry Greenberg was a very unavailable elected official, unless you were one of his direct neighbors. As he often was often quoted as saying: Power has privileges, and this is Camelot. (referring to his home and his block)

      If you are still undecided, I urge you to try to reach out to the mayor and guage her for yourself. The things they say are wildly false.

      • I have lived in an apartment no where near Barry for 7 years and know Barry well. Never had problems talking to him. I don’t donate to knapper or am part ofthe wash u white collar elite now in charge so I have a different experience from you. Sorry to burst your delusion

      • I appreciate leaders who admit then they screw up–who can say “I should’ve done it____way rather than ________ way.”

        Knapper is unable or unwilling to ever do that. It’s a huge turn-off and mainly why I cannot bring myself to vote for her even though we share 99% of the same political views.

        Really bad trait to have as an elected official.

  2. This is perfectly said, and adequately sums up how my family and I have been feeling about this entire mayoral race. The aggression from the opposition to the incumbent is just so specific.

    If we were undecided, this tipped the scales. Thank you, Colin, for putting our feelings into words

    • LOL–rrright–the aggression from the opposition. Cuz the Knapper Mob has been so reasonable and measured and focused on issues. Wow-just wow-the cognitive dissonance is strong with y’all.

  3. I don’t understand what is “BS” about this opinion piece. I get it incites anger in some people. I don’t see any facts in the responses. From talking to supporters on both sides, current council members and a little research of councils meeting documents people have lost trust in elected officials and transparency is the most over used word in politics. Transparency is good but what is legal and available is not always understood which infuriates some. There were closed sessions of the city council many times over the last 6 years.

    On a positive note Maplewood’s bond rating improved within the last two years. Per the rating agency “ The rating reflects our view of Maplewood’s:
    Strong economy, with steady tax base growth in recent years;
    Strong budgetary performance, with generally steady revenue conditions;
    Very strong budgetary flexibility and liquidity, reflecting a healthy reserve and cash position; and
    Adequate management policies and practices and adequate institutional framework score.”

    Also there seems to but much more proactive approach to governance in the last three years compared to 3+ years ago. Since 2021 there seems to be many more meetings and time dedicated from the council and mayor including budgeting sessions. This might help explain the positive comments from bond rating agency.

  4. What a gross, pointless opinion piece. Literally not one point here that would suggest why someone should vote for Mayor Knapper except that apparently we are racist for not supporting her. It’s fun that the greatest campaigning that’s being done for Barry is Knapper supporters sharing BS like this article. His campaign could really not do any better in convincing people not to vote for the current Mayor than her supporters. Bravo, Colin.

  5. I guess Barry being possibly the first Jewish mayor of Maplewood is not the “right” type of minority for Collin to celebrate? I came to Maplewood in part because we value the rich diversity here. Please enlighten us with your thoughts on which minority group is most special? I’d like to know where my family ranks.

    • Their smears on Barry have gotten grotesque and just show how desperate they are–all coming from the “let’s talk and listen to our neighbors” crowd as they continue to intimidate and denigrate ANY neighbor who isn’t in “compliance” with their Savior candidate.

      If you’re keeping score at home, please note that it’s apparently ok to attack a man for speaking about his adopted Black son, but it is NEVER okay to ask your mayor to answer questions from community members unless she is surrounded at a coffee shop by her protectors and enablers.

  6. Wow, racism if I ever saw it. Emphasis that having a black mayor is more important than the quality of life of longtime White property owners. Unreal.

    • It is interesting that almost all the Barry signs are located in yards with very large houses. Forgive me if I’m incorrect but this comment seems to say Barry is for the “haves” and the mayor is for the “have nots”.

      • You clearly don’t get around the town much. Drive through the neighborhood over by the elementary and count the Barry yard signs in smaller yards/smaller homes. Drive over on Oxford and same thing. Drive past the homes behind Wal-Mart…etc.

        So yes-you are indeed incorrect. But nice try at initiating fake “class” warfare. The irony here is simply too much!

      • It’s not really that interesting because this is not even remotely true. And honestly it’s such a weird assertion to try to make. I was in the Marietta parking lot the other day and noticed Nikylan signs in front of several of the very large, very lovely houses there. And plenty of smaller houses in my neighborhood have Barry signs.

      • “It is interesting that almost all the Barry signs are located in yards with very large houses.”
        Not nearly as interesting as your total disconnect from reality. Barry signs have been visible in ALL TYPES OF YARDS across Maplewood.

    • And there it is, folks! An allegation of anti-white racism from a Barry supporter! 😂

      This just can’t get any better.

      • Chad never said anything about supporting a specific mayoral candidate. Chad might not even be a registered voter or might not live in Maplewood Stop trying to drag one candidate thru the mud because of a random comment about your preferred candidate.

        • The “zeal” of the Knapper Squad is something to behold. It’s quite sad to tie your entire identity to a specific politician (MAGA vibes) but hey, at least they got cool hoodies with her name on them.

  7. The piece criticizes the 1990 City Plan’s, “fundamental goal is the preservation and improvement of property values throughout the city.” This core goal — furthering the enrichment of the property owner at all costs — is not only the key unifying feature of white urban gentrification everywhere.”

    Perhaps we should pause and look around at the quality of the city and schools as a result of this and realize it’s *why many of us are here now*. Maplewood IS a diverse place, which is one of the most influential reasons we chose to live here, but we wouldn’t have moved here if the schools were the same quality they were in the 90s, and neither, I suggest, would the vast majority of us here now. Furthermore, the wealth that it has created has enabled the many, many multi-flat residences an affordable option to take advantage of the quality of schools Maplewood can now provide.

    It is far too easy to see fault in the people responsible for Maplewood’s renaissance, while at the same time welcoming the benefits from it.

    • Touche, Ben, on such a perceptive and cogent take. I have always felt that there are four legs to the stool: the residents, the government, the schools (including religious institutions and non-profit organizations) and the business community. If one leg is shorter than the others, we’re on wobbly ground. Plus, as with a stool, each leg affects the other; it’s a true symbiotic relationship. As for myself and the other commercial property owners in the downtown district who are active in Maplewood affairs, “furthering the enrichment of the property owner at all costs” is NOT the prime directive. Speaking for myself, when considering tenants, I have always thought first, “What’s best for Maplewood?” not “What’s best for me?” because I know what’s best for Maplewood will eventually be what’s best for me, but what’s best for me now is most likely not what’s best for Maplewood in the long run. As you so adeptly pointed out, the conversations that are going on in our community now would not be occurring had the stunning renaissance that started (on all fronts) in the 1990s and has continued had not developed. Nothing exists in a vacuum.

    • Hi Ben! Thanks for your reply. I agree with you about the current popularity of Maplewood as a community folks in the area desire to move to. I am just like you–the reason I decided to move here is the quality of the MRH public school district. The houses here are in high demand because people like us have recognized the tremendous work this city has done to thrive, often against the odds. I also appreciate Rob’s comment that in the business community increasing property values is not the sole goal—businesses thrive when there’s more holistic development that involves diverse parts of the community. I feel happy about Maplewood’s growth over the years and how the community will keep coming together to build itself and grow into the future. I also agree that Maplewood is diverse, as you point out Ben, but I don’t think Maplewood’s diversity means that the city government has also been strongly equitable and inclusive, particularly when it comes to certain parts of the population, especially Black residents, low-income residents, and tenants. Like another commenter here has observed, the opinion piece I wrote is quite “myopic” in its view. That’s true (likely to a fault since it’s an opinion piece) but the reasoning behind my myopic focus is that I think because the Maplewood city government has had such a long-term focus on economic growth, now we need to shift our attention to also including a stronger focus on using the power of the city government to create more racial equity in the impressive outcomes our strong, vibrant community is obviously able to achieve. I disagree with you when you say it’s “too easy to see the fault” in Maplewood’s renaissance. I have actually been able to read and learn a lot about Maplewood’s success story—it’s quite popular and well-documented. For me, it’s important to avoid thinking Maplewood’s success story is a perfect, unblemished one. Any success story for any community is always going to be complex and complicated. While Maplewood is racially diverse, it’s not racially equitable. That’s because Black residents here are disproportionately likely to be low-income and to not be homeowners. It’s true that the success of the MRH school district benefits everyone living here because they have access to a good school, but when the city’s efforts to increase property values are unchecked, the influx of wealthier residents to Maplewood results in rising cost of housing and displacement of residents who can’t afford the rising rent. People who don’t own property are more likely to become housing and food insecure, live in increasingly tight poverty, or be driven out of Maplewood’s success story because the city hasn’t yet accomplished the goal of securing long-term affordable housing. Maplewood’s success story shouldn’t just be for the people wealthy enough to afford it. As Rob also pointed out, I agree that we don’t live in a vacuum and we’re not immune to the same racial inequities that are ubiquitous around the country. I love Maplewood, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s perfect. And I hope we can acknowledge and keeping talking about pathways to improving racial equity. While I was sad about the recent election, I do support the next mayor and the city government and I plan on continuing my volunteer work with the city to address racial inequities and systemic injustice, especially when it comes to accessible and affordable housing.

      • Colin-if you truly support the next mayor, you can maybe focus more on the work and less on the “faculty lounge” exposition and lectures.

        Also when wealthy or upper middle-class YT people move in and gentrify an area, prices and costs start to rise. Its really quite simple so while there might be some creative ways to assist with making it more affordable, you cannot nor should you expect landlords to LOWER rents to some arbitrary price point for social justice brownie points. In a Progressive Utopia that may happen but in the real world, it doesn’t. Also-Knapper didn’t INVENT or create the tenant’s bill of rights-she literally used what already existed and compiled it into a single document.

        FUN FACT-50% of this town is already apartment dwellings versus homes.

        Finally your blog piece was rather off-putting and insulting under the guise of being “socially conscious.”

        There is a palpable elitism here in Maplewood and some of that just got squashed in our election. Many of us find it offensive being told that we are primarily driven by racism in all that we do.

        That approach didn’t work well on TUES (63% for Greenberg as a WRITE-IN!) and it’s not going to get more popular moving forward. Maplewood also has a large number of lower socio-economic residents who are NOT people of color. Something that seems to be ignored or minimized by you and your crew.

        I sincerely hope that you are open to working with people who may not agree with you on everything because that is unavoidable in a democracy and in a diverse society. Otherwise you will be viewed as just one more rigid savior hell bent on “fixing” all of us.

        Demonstrate some humility it goes a long way.

  8. I’m not at all surprised that Mayor Knapper endorses your divisive take- it has been the absolute vibe of her whole campaign.

    You have some audacity to suggest that people who disagree with the Mayor are doing so on the basis of race. It’s a democracy and like it or not, people have the right to disagree with those in public office. Well intended elected officials embrace public comment and welcome the concerns of their constituents.

    Frankly, your piece is lazy, ignorant, and baseless. For Greenberg’s sake, I’d say keep on writing. It’s working well for him.

    • Let’s not forget that Mayor Knapper herself accused THIS VERY SITE and the Post-Dispatch of posting lies and mistruths about her and her campaign.

      Tiny problem, though–she didn’t name or specify one single verifiable lie or mistruth. Why, you ask? because she knows that her followers don’t care whether it’s true or not and is hoping no one else even notices that the same person crying media bias and “lies” can’t even answer a question at a city council meeting.

      How laughable that the same people who discounted Sandi Philips piece for being too “opinionated” are falling all over themselves with adulation for this elitist, self-righteous claptrap.

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