(This is a corrected version of the editorial published Aug. 6.)
Residents of St. Paul's Fourth Ward will have a new City Council representative in September. After 10 years in office, former council President Russ Stark resigned in February to become environmental policy adviser to Mayor Melvin Carter.
We give a slight edge to Nelson, 32, a Twin Cities native who says she is "running as a renter" to bring that important perspective to leadership in a city where about 50 percent of the population rents. Central to her campaign is increasing the supply of affordable housing, an urgent need in St. Paul and metrowide. Her other priorities are building community wealth, environmental sustainability and police accountability.
As the daughter of Korean and Iranian immigrants, Nelson would also help give voice to the city's growing immigrant populations. She worked as a classroom teacher in New Orleans three years after Hurricane Katrina, then returned home as a teachers union organizer and worked on a successful school referendum campaign. Now she's a local outreach director for Democratic U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison.
Erstad, 51, is executive director of the St. Paul and Ramsey County Friends of the Parks and Trails. Originally from South Dakota, she has lived, worked, volunteered and raised her family in St. Paul for the past 25 years. She has served on numerous community and city task forces. As co-founder of St. Paul STRONG, she worked with city officials to diversify and re-energize St. Paul's boards and commissions.
The nonprofit executive is running on a platform of People (progressive, human rights values), Potholes (the business of running a city) and Priorities (living our values while meeting goals).
Both candidates are Democrats. Nelson has DFL Party endorsement as well as endorsements from many DFL elected officials and major unions and progressive groups. Erstad has support from numerous current and former elected officeholders and community leaders.
Also appearing on the ballot is David Martinez, 38, whose campaign has been marred by marital conflict and other personal issues.
To help shape St. Paul's future, voters should elect Mitra Jalali Nelson to the St. Paul City Council.