By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Residents say the trash debate in St. Paul has taken an ugly turn.

Police say they are investigating racist letters and a threatening voicemail left for the city’s first African-American mayor.

WCCO’s Reg Chapman talked to Melvin Carter about how he handles these personal attacks.

While police work to find who’s responsible for threatening the mayor, Carter is busy at his usual duties. He says his staff cannot afford to focus on the negative stuff.

“We’re focused on continuing to move forward the vision that the voters and the taxpayers in the city have sent us to move forward,” Carter said.

The threats are connected to a vote next month where residents could throw out a new system to pick up trash. The city says property taxes will go up if that happens. Two notes included racial slurs and a voice mail threat said if the levy goes through, the mayor may need bulletproof glass at his home.

“More than anything, I think it’s regrettable that there are those of us that have fallen for the trick, that if we disagree with each other over policy we have to be hateful and vindictive towards one another,” Carter said.

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter (credit: CBS)

Inside the Grooming House Barber shop in St. Paul, the discussion was all about threats against Mayor Carter.

“I feel like it is more personal than anything,” said Damen Johnson of the Grooming House Barber Shop. “It’s disrespectful to me for anyone to go as far as that. It’s not as much about the trash than it is about how they feel about having a black man making them types of decisions.”

All agree racist name calling and making threats will not solve the issue.

“We always have those that disagree, and they go about it the wrong way, sending threatening letters and stuff like that. It’s not going to help. It’s not going to help anybody unify,” said barber Jared Sande.

Mayor Carter says the threats will not stop him for striving to make St. Paul a city that works for all of us.

“I don’t see those threats, those kinds of messages representative of who we are as a city,” Carter said.

St. Paul police are responsible for security for Mayor Carter, his family and staff. Police say they’re taking the threats seriously and investigating. The department does not discuss the steps it takes to keep the mayor safe.

Reg Chapman