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MEET DAI THAO, OUR CURRENT COUNCIL MEMBER

DAI'S BACKGROUND

Dai was born in Laos in 1975. He grew up during the Vietnam Conflict in Southeast Asia, and escaped to a refugee camp in Thailand with his family before coming to North Minneapolis, MN.

Dai is the proud father of six children, and husband. They live in Frogtown. Dai is an avid fisherman, poet, and a long time social justice community organizer and IT professional.


DAI'S VALUES

Dai’s background and challenges have helped shape him into the effective leader he is today. His childhood began in a refugee camp in Thailand, before moving to government housing in Minneapolis. Every step on his journey he has had to fight for a better life, and this background is what has given him the drive to fight for the dream everyone has--for a better life. Dai knows these differences is what must unite people, not divide them. Dai is a collaborator and brings people together to solve problems. 

Dai leads with racial equity lens. For example, we know that credit bureaus are racist institutions. This is why he worked hard to make sure that the city’s affordable housing team is working with people with no to low credit scores and prepare them for home ownership to build and retain generational wealth.

Another systemic issue is the lack of access to capital for minority-owned businesses. Banks are not always willing to work with them to provide them the capital to start or expand their business. He has pushed the City’s banking partners to change its banking practices through the Responsible Banking Ordinance, and have worked with the City and the Port Authority to create a fund that would help finance small businesses owned by people of color.

He has been challenging the status quo to bring equity to communities of color and low income communities by removing criminal background checks for housing and have been successful at requiring developers to do so and create less barriers to housing and job opportunities.  

A HISTORY OF PROGRESS 

Since his election to St. Paul City Council in 2013 Dai has fought for you. He has worked hard for working families, including passing the strongest Earned Sick and Safe Time ordinance in the country. He listened, and fought against the increased property tax levy, knowing it would hit those most vulnerable among us the hardest, who can least afford it. In addition to these efforts, Dai has championed a number of issues:

For working families - He successfully championed paid-parental leave for city employees, as well as the strongest Earned Sick and Safe Time ordinance in the country. This was accomplished even as he fought against increases in the property tax levy.

For parents trying to protect and improve the lives of their children - Council Member Thao created the city Emergency Notification System for lost child, abduction, and active shooter situations, banned single cigars and flavored-tobacco that was being marketed to children and young adults, and ensured that low-income families had free access to all St. Paul water parks.

For improved learning and action - He led the creation of a citywide, centralized district council database to better shape, share, access and analyze neighborhood problems and trends.

FOR THE FUTURE GROWTH AND ECONOMIC STABILITY OF THE COMMUNITY 

Council member Dai Thao has been able to leverage private, public, and non-profit partnerships to support small businesses improve and expand. At the Selby-Milton-Victoria Project, in partnership with the Rondo Community Land Trust, Neighborhood Development Corporation, Central Selby Association, and private funders, CM Thao was able to help secure and leverage funding for the project that has 32-units of affordable housing and 9,300 square feet of affordable commercial space designed for small businesses to expand or become established on Selby Avenue, including Golden Thyme Coffee, a long-time anchor business in Rondo.

Dai worked to bring millions of dollars in new investments in St. Paul’s downtown and neighborhoods. This included helping to develop the new Minnesota Wild practice facility in the old Macy’s building and facilitating the new, privately-funded, top-tier Major League Soccer stadium that will replace weeds and cracked blacktop in St. Paul’s Midway, while also providing a major catalyst for redevelopment of the area.

Allianz Field now sits on a once-empty bus-barn site where continuous calls for service from security personnel and complaints of an unmaintained sea of parking stalls came from residents through to City Hall. Since its opening, the City’s net sales tax revenue has increased by almost 30% compared to last year. 

Throughout the development of the $250M, 100% privately-financed stadium and the development of Snelling-Midway Redevelopment, Council member Thao actively called for the development to meet construction and sustainability goals, and community benefits including a community fund, green space, affordable housing, and incubator spaces for women and minority-owned businesses. 

The development exceeded construction hiring goals where 90% of construction hours were worked by local contractors, 33% of construction hours were performed by workers of color, and 11% construction hours were performed by women. The site will also have a privately-owned, publicly-accessible, “Great Lawn,” with more than 20,500 square feet of grass, where Minnesota United will cover construction and maintenance of the new park, and the City will cover pedestrian facilities and benches throughout the park for everyone to access and enjoy.

Additionally, the City has invested and developed a landmark clean water infrastructure, which will recycle more than 2 million gallons of rainwater every year. This unique system, the largest and smartest of its kind, will be used to irrigate trees and grass across the site, and to serve future developments around the stadium. 

YOUTH OPPORTUNITIES

INCREASE ACCESS TO COMMUNITY CENTERS & PARKS

On the City Council, Council member Thao has led the most public investments in parks, community centers and youth development programs across the City. In partnership with local community groups, non-profits, and private funders, he has leveraged private and public partnerships to improve and expand parks in Ward 1 including the completion of Frogtown Parks and Farms, new Midway Peace Park, new Frogtown Community Center, Jimmy Lee Play Area, Central Village Playground, and Vivie’s Playground at Boyd Park.

YOUTH HIRING GOALS A PRIORITY

Council member Thao has been successful in increasing funds for the City’s Right Track Youth Employment program and aligning the City’s goals of youth hiring with its contracting services. This has increased the number of opportunities for youth to be hired through both public and private partnerships.

PARTNERSHIPS ARE CRUCIAL IN YOUTH DEVELOPMENT

With the opening of Ramsey County Sheriff Fletcher’s new community engagement office in North End, Council member Thao has partnered with community organizations and the Sheriff’s office to provide resources for youth on job opportunities and programming. Organizations will be able to share and refer youth to different programs and services according to their needs and interests. 

AFFORDABLE HOUSING

CURRENT RESIDENTS PRIORITIZED IN PRESERVATION & NEW HOUSING PROJECTS

Council member Thao has been a successful advocate and champion for building and preserving affordable housing in the City. He helped secure gap financing to complete the new Western-U Plaza, BROWNstone Lofts, Selby-Milton-Victoria Apartments, and Mino Oski Ain Dah Yung. Preservation projects included Jamestown, Lonnie Adkins, Wilder Square, and Skyline. Each of the projects served current residents and or prioritized outreach to residents from the area to secure housing for them.

SUCCESS IN DEEP HOUSING AFFORDABILITY GOALS

Council member Thao was successful in pushing the City Council to amend and adopt deeply affordable housing policies in the Ford Master Plan. The plan originally called for twenty percent affordable housing in the entire housing development but only affordable at 60 and 50 percent of the area median income (AMI). Council member Thao was able to persuade and earn the support of the Council members to include more deeply affordable housing levels at 30 percent of the AMI level.

ANTI- DISPLACEMENT TOOLS DEPLOYED WITH EVERY OPPORTUNITY

Council member Thao is an active listener and public servant who seizes opportunities to improve the lives of people in the district and throughout Saint Paul. One of the many issues he heard from residents and advocacy organizations about tenant rights are the challenges of using Section 8 vouchers in Saint Paul due to income discrimination, down payment requirements, and credit score requirements. When the City’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority was revisiting its policies on how to allocate city tax credits to affordable housing projects, Council member Thao successfully pushed for requiring developers to have a Tenant Selection Plan that would not simply deny applicants with low credit scores, unlawful detainer records, and or old criminal records. This is a step in the right direction to help people find and access housing in St. Paul.

SAFETY IN THE COMMUNITY

Council Member Thao led from the front on restructuring the Police-Civilian Internal Affairs Review Commission (PCIARC) to help create more trust between the community and those sworn to protect and serve it.

He believes St. Paul needs multiple concurrent- holistic approaches to address the root cause of gun violence and crime and to address the immediate public safety concerns; one is for more investments in community ambassadors to work with at-risk individuals and to create economic opportunities for them. Two, we need to invest in gun-violence intervention programs to fight crime with trained investigators and community engagement. Three, we need to invest in technology such as ShotSpotter to pinpoint shots fired in real-time data so that police officers can identify where the shots are coming from. Study has shown shots-fired detection system has taken guns and hardened criminal off the streets.

Gun violence and crime in many cases are just the symptoms, and the root cause is trauma, poverty, structural racism. We need to create good paying jobs for youth and working family. We need to triple down on affordable housing to create stability, and the school system needs to provide quality education.

He has supported the increase in mental health professionals to partner with the police department; invested in youth development by ensuring that all city contracts align with the city goals of hiring and mentoring youth from the community. He has also led the fight for affordable housing and the city’s Right Track program to secure jobs for youth in St. Paul. All of these programs are what we need to reduce gun violence and crime.

Dai currently serves on the Family Housing Fund, the Twin Cities Community Land Bank, the Dispatch Policy Board, the Joint Property Tax Advisory Committee, and the St. Paul Port Authority. He meets regularly with constituents, district councils and neighborhood organizations, being educated in his priorities by those people in the community and hearing first hand the struggles and concerns of people in St. Paul every day.




Paid for By Dai Thao for Ward 1
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