Prince takes the throne

Mounds Park resident Jane Prince will be St. Paul’s new city council member for Ward 7, which includes  the neighborhoods of Dayton’s Bluff, Mounds Park, Battle Creek, Highwood, Hazel Park, Conway, Scenic Hills, and Sun Ray. (photo courtesy of Jane Prince)
Mounds Park resident Jane Prince will be St. Paul’s new city council member for Ward 7, which includes the neighborhoods of Dayton’s Bluff, Mounds Park, Battle Creek, Highwood, Hazel Park, Conway, Scenic Hills, and Sun Ray. (photo courtesy of Jane Prince)

New Ward 7 council member’s eyes are to children

Starting this week, a significant chunk of the East Side will have a new city council representative.

Long-time Dayton’s Bluff resident Jane Prince will step into the shoes that were for over 17 years filled by Kathy Lantry, who’s now the city’s Public Works director.

Prince will take over Ward 7 city council duties from interim council member Bill Finney, the former St. Paul Police chief, who held the position for nine months after Lantry left her post. Prince, who’s had an interest in local government most of her adult life, knew right when she heard Lantry would be stepping away from her long-held post, that she’d like a shot at the job. After months of campaigning, she ended up running unopposed in November’s election.

Ward 7 is in the southeast corner of St. Paul. The ward includes the neighborhoods of Dayton’s Bluff, Mounds Park, Battle Creek, Highwood, Hazel Park, Conway, Scenic Hills, and Sun Ray.

Historic house

Prince, now 61, moved to the lower East Side neighborhood of Mounds Park in 1984 with her husband David Murphy.

They bought a pre-1900’s home that they thought would be their starter home from a widow whose husband had worked at 3M, before they closed down their East Side operations. With a lot of properties on the market in the area, they were able to get a good price on the house, and planned to build equity and eventually move.

But, falling in love with the home’s historic flourishes, they stayed, raised their son, and they’re still there today.

“We loved it so much that we stayed,” she says.

Prince says she and her husband’s move echoes how she views Dayton’s Bluff nowadays — young families are moving in to the neighborhood, she says, in search of low-cost housing, similar to the fallout that occurred as mainstay industrial jobs left the East Side.

“You can get a lot of house for the price (on the East Side),” she says.

East coaster seeks “winter city”

She grew up in Brockton, Massachusetts (hometown of famed boxer Rocky Marciano, and once the shoe manufacturing capitol of the world). She relates it to the East Side, calling it another city where industry went awry, leaving the city to find a new identity for itself.

After graduating from Brockton High School, she went on to get a degree in English literature from the University of New Hampshire, with minors in art and Russian, “which isn’t too relevant to anything,” she quips.

After college, she decided she wanted to move to a “winter city,” and ultimately chose St. Paul.

Not long after relocating, she began working for the Minneapolis Housing and Redevelopment Authority starting in the late 1970s.

“That’s when I discovered my passion for local government,” she says.

At that point in time the city was selling $1 houses with federal assistance money. Some of the people buying those homes became her first Twin Cities friends, she notes.

And through that process she learned of the issue of redlining, where insurance companies won’t provide homeowners insurance in certain low-income neighborhoods. At the time, they wouldn’t issue insurance in large swaths of Minneapolis.

Though this practice has been eliminated to some degree, she asserts that similar practices still occur in more subtle ways.

That’s something she’s hoping to whittle away at while on the council.

History in politics

Prince is no stranger to politics — she worked from 1998 to 2007 as an aide to former Ward 4 council member Jay Benanav, who often teamed up with former Ward 7 Council Member Kathy Lantry, she says.

From that experience, she learned that though St. Paul has its bureaucracies, they’re not insurmountable.

With a relatively small scale and relatively few  elected officials, you can cut through bureaucracy and get things done, she asserts.

“You can really just try anything... when you see something that doesn’t work... you can actually address it.”

She points to an example of this, when she was working for a law firm, and pushed to change the code around the regulation of food trucks.

Working at Weinblatt and Gaylord Plc., she discovered a city’s code that had unintended consequences for one food truck. Border Tacos had gotten a ticket for parking violations — The city’s parking regulations made it near-impossible for food trucks to operate in the city, she says.

But, by bringing it to the attention of the city council, the issue was addressed, and food trucks became more free to do business in St. Paul.

As an aside, Prince notes that while working in Ward 4, it seemed like every resident “had the city on speed dial.”

Through this feedback process, complaints were heard by city staff, and problems were addressed.

“But on the East Side, people don’t complain,” she says. That’s something she’d like to see changed. She welcomes calls from anyone with a complaint or concern about Ward 7.

Development

Prince says she sees the development potential of Dayton’s Bluff and the East Side as a whole. She’s saying this from the newly updated Swede Hollow Cafe, with the newly built Mississippi Market Food Co-op behind her, as well as the under-construction senior housing complex by Dominium. New Metropolitan State University buildings are in the immediate vicinity, and just up the street is the new East Side Enterprise Center.

But she worries that the city’s underestimating its potential — the Dominium site, she notes, received millions in public subsidy, and won’t pay taxes on the building for decades, thanks to a tax increment financing deal the city struck with the developer.

Similarly, she balks at the proposed tax incentives for a new soccer stadium, and the recently completed St. Paul Saints stadium. She’d like to see unsubsidized development take precedent, to build the tax base.

As development progresses with things like the Gateway Corridor transit line, she’s hoping the city will keep this point in mind.

Aide

Prince will have her neighbor Stephanie Harr as her aide. Harr has served on the Dayton’s Bluff board before, as well as a couple of East Side non-profits: she once served on the board of Urban Roots, and is currently on the board of Urban Oasis. She’ll be leaving a marketing and communications job at the University of Minnesota’s healthcare division to take the job.

She’s hoping to use her communications skills to help Ward 7 residents understand what’s going on with the ward and with city politics.

“I think it’s kind of an opaque world for many people,” she says.

Hobbies

Up until mid-December, Prince worked in Hamline University’s School of Law doing alumni relations work, while also occasionally working for Weinblatt and Gaylord, Plc., the law firm she’s worked with for years.

When not working, Prince says she’s enjoyed spending time at Swede Hollow Cafe, where she often brunches with friends.

“The cafe is my second home,” she says.

Besides that, she’s kept up with a book club, and enjoyed biking and cross-country skiing. Much of that, however, took a backseat while she campaigned — she spent just about every weekend during election season doorknocking in the neighborhood.

Rec. centers

Prince says her top priority once getting into office will be advocating for more resources for Ward 7’s youth.

During her campaign, she took note of a lot of people telling her that East Side kids are terribly under-served by St. Paul Parks and Recreation, she says. Four rec centers have closed in the past eight years in Ward 7, all in areas of high need, she notes, where many children live in higher density housing with less green space.

She laments the loss of Margaret Park’s rec center, and that Eastview’s rec center is rented to a boxing club, with understaffed athletic fields and no public services.

Conway’s doing better, she says, with private partnership, but as a general practice, she questions the move to privatize public assets.

Highwood Hills, she says, is a top priority — the closed down rec center is very near to two large apartment complexes, where hundreds of kids live, without any access to recreation centers.

“Our kids are our future and we’ve got to serve them.”

Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.

 

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