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The Oracle

The student news site of Hamline University.

The Oracle

The student news site of Hamline University.

The Oracle

A Q & A with councilmember Mitra Jalali

Councilmember Jalali shares her insight during community conversation
Justin Antwi
Councilmember Mitra Jalali answered student questions in Klas Center.

For the past four years, Mitra Jalali has served as the councilperson for Ward 4, an area that includes Hamline-Midway, Merriam Park, Saint Anthony Park and parts of Macalester-Groveland and Como. The issues that she is passionate about range greatly; from building community wealth and economic development to affordable housing and home ownership, Jalali has cemented herself as a beacon of change in the Saint Paul area.
Continuing her campaign for re-election, Jalali spent an afternoon speaking with both Hamline University students and faculty, giving them the opportunity to ask the questions they needed answers for.
The event was led by Abi Grace Mart, the internal president of the Hamline Undergraduate Student Congress (HUSC). Questions were provided by both Mart and other students via a Google Form sent out prior to the event.

AGM: What does the day-to-day look like for council members compared to other positions of local government?

MJ: In the city of Saint Paul, our council, in terms of the day-to-day, is basically a pretty regular schedule, in that we meet every Wednesday, except for the fifth Wednesday of the month. So what that means for my work week is that Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday is usually a pile of people wanting to talk about their items before we vote on them. Any last minute staff stuff getting sorted out before people can actually vote on the item. So that tends to feel a bit busier. Thursday and Friday, I usually try to catch up on the week, catch up on email, get to meetings that are not as imminent as, like, voting on something. I spend about half of my time at City Hall, half in the community. I would say that with the campaign going on and the nature of the job, it has probably skewed much more out in the community and out in the city. For sure on Wednesdays I’m at City Hall. Usually on Tuesdays, I try to be there with my team, so that myself and my legislative aid and my scheduler can run through and have our weekly meeting.

AGM: In a survey given out to students when asked, which of the following matters concerns you the most, students and community members worried most about public safety. What initiatives are the council taking?

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MJ: I think what’s really critical is we start from a place of what contributes to a lack of safety. It’s disinvestment. It’s disinvestment in communities, it’s lack of support, it’s not having ongoing nurturing and opportunity. It’s making sure we have strong social infrastructure, like public schools, parks, libraries, enrichment opportunities, things for kids to do, caring adults who can afford to be in the caring professions, where they work with kids and help them. I think that we are often in a reactive conversation. We know that there is structural racism in our country that has held people back from accessing that safety. So what do we need to do about it? The city has tried to expand our community safety programs and approaches, while also investing in that broad social infrastructure. [We’re also doing] actual interventions. So if something’s happening to you, if you’re not experiencing safety, what response is appropriate? It takes imagination and it takes a willingness to shift what people’s attitude is to help people understand why it’s helpful and necessary.

AGM: Going broader than the board, what investments are being made? Alongside the zoning policy changes to bolster Saint Paul housing, how can we encourage conscientious development and discoverage of big buildings and urban decay?

MJ: We passed major zoning changes last night that make it easier to build smaller scale, multi-family housing. That’s a really big deal! Eliminated single-family only zoning all throughout the city. There’s all these thousands of blocks where the only thing you can have there are single-family homes and you can’t build other stuff. Now, it can be a single-family home, it could be converted into a duplex, it could become a fourplex; more multi-family housing.

Students in attendance of this event felt eager to come for a variety of reasons.
“[I came] partially because I had a professor who encouraged me to. I’m also personally interested in it as well. I want to be here and learn about Saint Paul and maybe ask some questions that could lead to some conversation,” Cece Chmelik said.
The event ended in a brief opportunity for students to talk with Mitra personally, to ask further questions that they had or to talk about their concerns for the Hamline-Midway area.
To learn more about Mitra Jalali, her journey and her campaign for re-election, visit

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