By Esme Murphy

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — There was a lot of focus this fall on Minneapolis’ contested mayoral election. Over in St. Paul, Mayor Melvin Carter cruised to a re-election victory, winning more than 62% of the vote — beating his closest rival by 49 percentage points.

As he prepares to enter his second term, Mayor Carter sat down with WCCO’s Esme Murphy to talk about his ambitious social agenda, as well the issue on everyone’s mind: rising crime.

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When we asked if St. Paul was safe, Carter replied “absolutely” — but a lot of people may disagree with him. A record 35 murders have happened in the city this year, and 15 people were shot two months ago at a packed bar near downtown.

“We’ve had, along with the whole rest of the country and the whole rest of the world, some really heartbreaking things happen in our community,” Carter said. “We’re always going to push to be even safer.”

The mayor’s safety plan includes social workers responding to mental health crises, improved street lighting and more free programs for young people.

Mayor Melvin Carter (credit: CBS)

“The traditional approaches to public safety haven’t brought us the outcomes that we wanted to bring,” he said.

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St. Paul is currently being sued by both the police and fire department unions over the mayor’s vaccine mandate, which has a Dec. 31 deadline. Carter said he doesn’t know offhand how many officers and firefighters have been vaccinated.

Another pressing issue for Carter is that he plans to ask the city council to exempt new construction from the 3% rental cap voters approved last month. He is backing a pilot guaranteed income plan for 125 St. Paul families who are getting $500 a month. The goal is nothing sort of eliminating poverty.

“This is a man-made problem and we can see our ways out of it through policies like this,” he said.

And he has a commission studying reparations for Black citizens whose families lost assets when the Rondo neighborhood was bulldozed in the 60s.

An ambitious climate change agenda calls for carbon neutrality by 2050. All of this has insiders pointing to the 42-year-old mayor as the future of the Minnesota DFL. But does he have aspirations for higher office?

“The weird thing about me is I am in love with municipal government,” Carter said. “At this point, there’s nothing I can imagine that would be a greater thrill than continuing to lead St. Paul forward.”

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Like Minneapolis, St. Paul is in the market for a new police chief. Todd Axtell is stepping down. Mayor Carter says he is looking both internally and externally at candidates for the job.

Esme Murphy