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For mayor, Chris Coleman

Pioneer Press
Updated: 10/27/2009 07:28:38 PM CDT

In his first term as mayor of St. Paul, Chris Coleman has established that he can work well with the City Council; will fight for big projects he considers important, such as Central Corridor light rail; can take heat from his own side; will persist at solving contentious issues (for example, the flood wall at Holman Field, Rock-Tenn's pursuit of a new fuel source and Trader Joe's quest to open a store in St. Paul).

He has established that he'll examine public safety operations (with audits of the police and fire departments), look for partnerships as alternatives or additions to city services, that he'll talk straight about the budget and is committed to "structural balance," that he won't break down in tough times. There's no question that he loves his hometown.

In his second term, he'll need all of that and more. A mayor's life isn't going to get any easier, and, now that he has one term under his belt, expectations of him should be higher. He'll need to leverage every bit of good will and credibility he has on behalf of more efficiency, priority-setting and salesmanship. His re-election is perhaps a foregone conclusion, but however that may be, our endorsement is not.

Let's pause here for a moment to appreciate his opponent. Eva Ng. Ng may be an electoral-politics rookie, but she's a corporate politics veteran. She's running on the strength of her three decades of business experience and what she argues is a figure-it-out, get-it-done approach to problem-solving. Her affection for the enterprise and entrepreneurialism of the business world is contagious. The way she talks about her experience in helping business owners make decisions and reallocate resources is encouraging. We were interested in concerns she raises about the city budget and appreciative of her hold-the-line stance on spending. She wants to benchmark our city against others and import best practices. She may be new to the city, but we're grateful that she has stood up against long odds to challenge Coleman. And we hope, should she not win, that she stays involved, one way or another. If she doesn't win, we'd hope the re-elected mayor would invite her in somehow, with respect for a smart newcomer's ability to ask questions that insiders won't, or can't. We would like to see much more of Eva Ng's approach put into practice around our city.

Now, back to Chris Coleman. The coming four years will be difficult. There's no fiscal relief in sight. Although overall spending has risen some (the trend is distorted upward this year with federal money for public safety), the city's property tax levy has risen sharply in the past few years. The combination of falling property values, unemployment and a weak business climate along with rising levies from the county and school district, both of which make up a larger share of the property-tax bill than the city means that that well is about dry. The bills for federal borrowing and spending will come due, so we have to assume that federal taxes will further limit local flexibility down the road.

In other words, the mayor's going to have more time than money. If he wants more currency, it's going to have to come from good will, more partnerships and cost cutting elsewhere. Or from systemic growth: more businesses, more employers, more residents. To that end, working to streamline and coordinate the city's economic development agencies is urgent. So is the removal of regulation and red tape that make it harder than it should be to do business in St. Paul (yes, we know, that's easier to say than do). Coleman needs to tackle the bureaucracy. It's a safe bet that a good business person could cut costs 25 percent without damaging the city's "bottom line." But it would require a sense of possibility and grit. And persistence. And a willingness to take on - constructively, but aggressively - the entrenched special interests that exist in all organizations, private or public.

With the groundwork of his first term, and by deciding not to run for governor, Coleman has established that he's serious about serving his hometown at a time when it needs his undivided effort. We endorse that effort. If we were to sum up our advice for his second term, it would be this: Make way for business, sell St. Paul hard, and squeeze that nickel.

Chris Coleman, Eva Ng differ in perspectives and direction for City of Saint Paul

By Tom Laventure, Asian American Press
October 22, 2009

The Saint Paul League of Women Voters offered city residents the first glimpse of two very different mayoral candidates together at Q&A Public Forum at Highland Park Library. The General Election will be held November 3, 2009.

LWV volunteer Jaclyn Schroeder served as the event moderator, noting the event was not a debate, but a public forum as part of its mission to inform citizens and inspire participation in the civic process.

Nonetheless, Incumbent Mayor Christopher Coleman and independent challenger Eva Ng were cordial in conversation but differed greatly in tier perspectives.

"We face a time of economic uncertainty with unemployment rates approaching 10 percent, with businesses fleeing and residents leaving," said Eva Ng. "As a result we have nearly 30 percent office space vacancies downtown, an estimated 2 to 4 thousand foreclosed or abandoned homes, and a much heavier tax and fee burden on each resident and commercial entity."

Ng is the CEO of Blanda, Inc. and a center-right conservative running as a non-partisan candidate, and endorsed by the Republican Party, said she is running for mayor because she believes her 30 years of private sector experience as an internal consultant and troubleshooter is a good match for the city. She was a presidential fast tracker and trouble-shooter for a Fortune 100 company, before becoming consulting as a "turn-a-round specialist" for small and medium sized businesses.

"Turning around difficult situations and making the most out of every dollar and influencing others to right the ship, is exactly what St. Paul needs at this specific time in our history in the mayors office," said Ng.

"We must pull St. Paul out of this downward spiral by first freezing the property tax rates and fee increases followed by finding ways to reduce them," she added. "We then have to create jobs and also ensure that our neighborhoods are safe and secure."

Coleman, completing his first term as Mayor after defeating Randy Kelly, was a former City Councilman who said he ran because he wanted the office to have a strong working relationship with the council, city departments and citizens.

"Four years ago I got to be mayor of the city I was raised in, and I didn't like the direction with the City Council and the Mayor at loggerheads," said Coleman. "There was a structural deficit that was not being dealt with and the community was feeling shut out of the process, and felt like they had no voice in the process. There was also neglect in the parks, libraries and public buildings."

Coleman pointed to his six point strategic plan of his first term as a success. He said it worked because it approached problems with a long-term approach, and solved a $16 million structural deficit in the third year of a four-year plan.

When asked what their priorities would be, Ng said she would freeze tax and fee rates and work to reduce them. She would streamline city operations and boost the tax base by creating jobs. She also said safety and security is paramount and would look for ways to make spending for fire, police, and emergency services more efficient.

When asked what they would do to revitalize downtown, Coleman said the comprehensive long-term strategy has blossomed with Cray Computer, Microsoft and GovDelivery, Inc. coming downtown, along with Central Corridor light rail and high speed rail to Chicago. He said 12 new restaurants and bars opened downtown despite a bad economy.

Ng replied that a few hundred new high tech jobs pales in comparison to 13,000 jobs lost during the recession. She said the city has not realized a one-to-one return on more than $19 million spent to revitalize downtown.

Ng said she would dedicate staff to market downtown for long-term business outside the city and state, to create jobs, and demand for business and housing vacancies that would boost the economy. would also believes an entrepreneur incubation system in vacant offices, would lead to qualified micro businesses and promising upstarts.

"Then let them grow and as they do it will create jobs and the new economy," she said.

Asked how they would keep neighborhoods safe and deal with high crime areas, Ng said that comparable "safe" cities have fewer police and smaller budgets. She said that as a consultant she could help the department assess whether police and complement staff are spending their time effectively.

"There are pocket crime areas in the East Side and North Side that is disconcerting," said Ng. "There are crimes not being reported because they need to fit a certain category to get reported. Are we doing best practices? Are the police visible enough?"

Coleman said the city did conduct a best practices audit of the department just two years ago. He said the largest city department budget had not ever been examined to whether it was spending its money or deploying officers wisely. He said the result was to correct its management to line officer ratio and deployment of officers.

He said the study showed that the city would need 630 for best possible function and they were able to achieve that this coming year. He said that problems with the transition to a new computer system have been overcome.

Asked how they would work with citizens to address vacant and abandoned properties, Coleman said the recent acceleration of foreclosures had brought a need to find creative ways to help owners keep their home. He said City Attorney John Cho drafted demand letters for lending institution to encourage more of them to work out plans to restructure mortgages.

He said community organizations and the Department of Safety and Inspections have worked together on creative ways to identify the worst properties to get rid of them. They worked with libraries and neighborhood organizations on foreclosure prevention assistance in six languages to stop 1,900 foreclosures.

"There is a lot more to be done," he added.

Ng said that the city is effectively taxing citizens right out of their own homes. She blamed successive annual tax increases of 9 percent, 15.1 percent, and 8.6 percent, with another 6 percent proposed for 2010. She also blasted increased right of way fees, utilities and maintenance costs, building permit hikes, and rising paramedic and transportation fees.

"This is something that we cannot continue," she said. "We cannot let this go on."

The candidates differed entirely on the Central Corridor light rail issue.

Coleman said he was proud that after 30 years of delays, that it is finally beginning construction. He said light rail is an essential investment to a revitalized downtown and to ensure that University Avenue neighborhoods are part of a first class transit system.

Ng said light rail is an important and integral part of a vibrant city and has merit, but that this corridor plan is riddled with flaws. She said the 1,000 business along University Avenue that stand to lose street parking and customer traffic deserve better.

Ng said the economic downturn would require citizens to shoulder unnecessary burden, and that projected costs of the line would likely double after business loss mitigation, lawsuits, eminent domain and parking garages. She would prefer the corridor to have underground or above ground light rail as a "new dimension to the traffic system and not just a compromise of the existing system."

"There are people that spent 24 years building their businesses and they can't afford to move," she said. "They are getting ready to go bankrupt in their 60's. This is a travesty to the businesses along the university corridor.

"This is not right. This is not the time to do it," she added. "We could delay this and maybe when we do it we do it right, with the right amount of money and we have a grade separation that is safe."

Both said the city park system and 36 recreation centers is a valuable asset to the city. However, the economy has required the closing of eight centers with eight more to close next year.

Coleman said he was careful not to choke the life out of system, and made strategic closures to allow savings to be reinvested into other center, in partnership with schools and organizations to ensure they were effectively engaging kids, families and seniors.

Ng said she is willing to make tough decisions in difficult times and would take a look would like to see more partnerships and volunteer opportunities to keep centers operating.

Asked about the wide disparity among the various neighborhoods of the city, Coleman said that the Invest St. Paul initiative and other work is designed to address crime, joblessness, foreclosures, and other factors that keep four neighborhoods struggling. He believes the district council system is a good voice and a way to bring business and nonprofit into problem solving.

"St. Paul is a city of neighborhoods and if one is struggling then all of them are struggling," he said.

Ng said she would organize a citizens advisory council. She would also schedule weekly neighborhood listening sessions and try to resolve their top concerns by the end of the term. She would also maintain an online forum for residents to speak to topics of concern to help her gauge how to conduct business.

Schroeder said the LWV studies and takes stands on issues but does not endorse or support political parties or candidates.

"We do encourage membership and others to get involved in the community and the political party of their choice," she added.
©2009 Asian American Press

Ng considers herself a master problem-solver

Eva Ng, a candidate for St. Paul mayor, says her 30 years of business experience give her the right background to lead the city through tough economic times.

By CHRIS HAVENS, Star Tribune
Last update: October 21, 2009 - 11:00 PM

Problem solver?

Maybe she'll get rid of the city's illegal code enforcement programs and make them follow the law.
If there's one thing Eva Ng enjoys, it's a challenge.

As a candidate for mayor in St. Paul, she has many to choose from.

The city faces plenty of challenges, many related to the economy, and Ng (pronounced "ing") says she's the best person to take them on. She also holds a Republican endorsement in a decidedly DFL city and is going up against an incumbent with a long political history. Mayor Chris Coleman sailed through the primary with 68 percent of the votes, while Ng pulled in 26 percent.

This is Ng's first run for political office.

"I look at something difficult and I go, 'Wow, how do I solve it?'" Ng said. "I love the feeling of wracking my brain and digging deep and finding everything I can find to throw at a problem."

Ng, 51, has spent 30 years as a chemical engineer, corporate troubleshooter and chief executive. That background, she says, gives her the right skills to lead the city through tough economic times.

Her top priorities would be to broaden the tax base and freeze any tax increases, streamline the workings of City Hall and be a "convenor" to bring together foundations, faith-based organizations and philanthropists to help the city.

Ng said she would spend the first part of her term studying the way different departments work to see where things could be made more efficient. She wants to bring more businesses to the city and get rid of city-owned buildings that aren't bringing in money. She would try to set up small-business incubators in vacant downtown buildings as a way to cut unused space and increase the potential for new jobs.

She wants to spend four hours in the evening, quarterly, in each ward to listen to people's ideas and concerns. She would also create an online forum to hear from residents.

So far, most of her plans don't have clearly defined steps for change. She figures it would take her 3 1/2 months to figure out what she needs to know so she can come up with detailed plans.

She has definite opinions on what isn't working.

Ng has hammered Coleman for increasing property taxes every year he has been in office.

While Coleman has hailed the progress of the planned Central Corridor light-rail line, Ng said the $1 billion project is flawed and that it's not a good time for it.

While she knocked him for a $450,000 forgivable loan to lure Cray Research to downtown, Ng said she isn't completely opposed to subsidies if the money used to help businesses can be recouped.

When she filed her candidacy papers, Ng urged Coleman to sign a pledge saying he would commit to serving the four-year term. She also challenged him to seven debates, one in each ward.

Coleman's campaign has dismissed the pledge and the request for seven debates as gimmicks.

"C'mon, why would that [debate request] be a gimmick?" she said. "This is something the citizens want to hear. They have a new choice and they need to hear about it."

Hesitant to enter race

Before deciding to run for mayor, Ng said "no" a few times when friends and acquaintances urged her to enter the race. "I actually never wanted to give up my private life, and I still don't," Ng said. But she said she has the financial means, the time and the right skills, so a run made sense.

Ng said she has stopped taking a salary and is using her savings to finance the bulk of her campaign. She loaned her campaign about half of the $31,000 it raised before the September primary.

Although she holds the GOP endorsement, Ng says she is running as a nonpartisan because it's a nonpartisan race.

Scott Walker, a St. Paul Republican activist, said he was among those who recruited Ng to run.

"I think she is one of the most well-prepared candidates we've had in decades," Walker said. "She's not the most politically savvy person but, politically, the climate in St. Paul is such that we need to start thinking [more] in terms of the city's needs than in political careers. She's interested in giving back."

Moved to U.S. at age 10

Ng's past is one of hard work and perseverance. She moved to Houston from Hong Kong at age 10. She earned a chemical engineering degree from Texas A&M University and went to work for large corporations, including Texaco. Later, she took a job as a turnaround consultant and worked with small to midsized companies.

About 10 years ago, she took over as CEO of Blanda Inc., a small manufacturing firm in Eagan that she had worked with as a consultant.

She married the company's founder, Robert Blanda, about six years ago, and they moved to St. Paul's Upper Landing in 2005.

Ng is quick to tell the story of her parents, who were orphaned at age 12 and fled Communist China to Hong Kong. They met at a textile factory. Ng is the oldest of seven siblings.

She is a self-described financial geek who enjoys keeping track of financial markets. She's an organic gardener and loves to cook.

Throughout her campaign, she has billed herself as an ordinary citizen out to serve the ordinary people of St. Paul.

"This is an altruistic thing for me," Ng said. "I love St. Paul, and I'd really like to see it turned around. This is something I sincerely want to do."

She'll find out Nov. 3 whether she will get the chance.

Chris Havens • 612-673-4148

Joe Soucheray: Why not let a business-savvy mayor thrash about? Like Eva Ng.

By: Joe Soucheray
Updated: 10/10/2009 09:43:28 PM CDT

Her name sounds like the model of a new electric sports car due out in the spring, The Eva Ng. The carbon footprint crowd alone should find it agreeable that the mayor with the shortest last name in the country would require considerably less energy just to print her name.

Why not Eva Ng for mayor?

Diversity? Check.

Gender? Check.

Multiculturalism? Well, St. Paul by way of Hong Kong trumps the Irish Catholic kid out of Cretin-Derham Hall any old day. She would trump most of us.

Ng (why it is pronounced "Ing" I have no idea, but I don't know how Favre gets the r in front of the v, either) seems to see what many of us are seeing: not much. The beloved ancient river town is leaning on the ropes, needing a kick-start. Chris Coleman, who announced the other day that he will not run for governor, said it would be unfair to his supporters if he wasn't committed full time to his vision for the city, most principally the Central Corridor light-rail line, which isn't so much a vision as a billion-dollar expenditure of yet more public money we don't have.

In fairness to Coleman, we are thrashing about in some tough times. I don't know that Eva Ng can do anything more than Coleman can about vacant storefronts and foreclosed houses, empty buildings and the woeful absence of private investment for jobs. But she at least insists she will not exacerbate the problems by expanding the city's debt load and piling on annual property tax increases and higher fees.

Even though most of our mayors could claim some time in the private sector, you would have to go back to George Vavoulis, 1960-66, to find somebody whose life experience had nothing to do with politics and everything to do with meeting a budget. He was a florist, a Greek florist, who, upon ascension assembled business leaders in his office and said, "What do you need?'' These days, mayors summon public employees to their office and ask them the same question. It isn't getting us anywhere.

Ng was born in Hong Kong and moved to the United States with her parents when she was 10. It sounds like she didn't have a lot of trouble in school. She got a degree in chemical engineering from Texas AM. She spent 20 years with Fortune 500 companies, 10 years with Texaco, where she was assigned to a different plant or department every two to three years. She was told to find out what was wrong and fix it. When she did, she moved on, under such titles as Local and Wide Area Network Technician, Project Engineer, Manufacturing Facilities Engineer, Environmental Health and Safety Coordinator of a Superfund Site, Quality Coordinator.

The list of her accomplishments is in her words, off her Web site. You should check it out at She left Texaco in 1995 and thus starts another impressive list of her business success stories.

Hey, if half of what she claims is utter embellishment, she is still 100 percent more qualified to crunch the numbers of a strapped city — ours — than any mayoral candidate we have had since the florist, who had to meet a payroll and figure out how to beat other florists at their game.

"She's a gift to this city,'' Jan Schneider, Ng's spokesperson, said Friday.

Ng moved to the Twin Cities in 1996. She turned around the failing Blanda Inc.

"Turned it around in four days,'' Eva said Friday.

Blanda makes precision tool-and-die equipment. She married Robert Blanda. She is 51. They bought a town home at the Upper Landing and moved there from Eagan in the spring of 2005.

"I don't need this,'' Eva said. "Bob and I are comfortable. I don't need a springboard to the next big thing. I'm happy. But I truly believe I can help this city.''

OK. You've got a 51-year-old woman born in Hong Kong who has amassed an impressive history of business success stories — a math whiz, no less — who believes it is time to change how the city is run.

Or you've got, well, what exactly?

Joe Soucheray can be reached at or 651-228-5474. Soucheray is heard from 2 to 5:30 p.m. weekdays on KSTP-AM 1500.


Eva Ng: Why I'm Running for Mayor of St. Paul

By Eva Ng
Updated: 10/07/2009 05:11:20 PM CDT

Citizens of St. Paul, we face a time of economic uncertainty, unemployment rates approaching 10 percent, businesses fleeing, and residents leaving. The revenues required to run our city went from $520 million in 2005 to $620 million in 2009. Meanwhile, our population declined from 285,000 people in 2005 to fewer than 270,000 this year. We have yet to tally the toll of the businesses that folded up in the last four years. As a result, we have nearly 30 percent office space vacancies downtown, an estimated 2,400 to 4,000 foreclosed or abandoned homes, and a much heavier tax and fee burden on residents and commercial entities.

I am running for mayor of St. Paul because I believe that my experience over the past 30 years in turning around difficult situations, making the most out of every dollar, and influencing others to help "right the ship" is exactly what St. Paul needs right now in the mayor's office.

We must pull St. Paul out of this downward spiral by first freezing property-tax and fee rates, followed by finding ways to reduce them. We're operating on a budget that is $100 million more per year than four years ago. There is enough money to fully fund our essential needs first. Those essentials are fire, police, emergency medical services, and roads. Then, we'll prioritize our "wants" and fully fund the most desirable of them based on input by the citizens. The lowest priority of the "wants" will have to take a back seat until funds become available.

Simultaneously, I will use my troubleshooting skills and consulting experience to optimize each department in City Hall. I will draw from my private-sector problem-solving experience for the good of every citizen in St. Paul. I will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that the citizens of St. Paul receive the most for their tax dollars invested. We will make changes based on the assessment of each department; however, some initial ideas that I have discussed with different groups of St. Paul residents include:

  • Eliminating redundancies in government services among the City, County, and State.

  • Identifying best practices, benchmarking to comparable Tier 1 cities, and setting specific targets for cost containment.

  • Reviewing city assets to assess whether they are revenue producers or cash drains, and finding ways to optimize revenue producers and turn around cash drains. If necessary, divest assets to responsible parties to create cash-flow-positive transactions.

  • Auditing purchasing practices to enforce fiscal discipline.

  • Balancing workload-to-personnel requirements in each department and working with appropriate management as well as the unions to implement cross-training.

  • Restructuring debt instruments as feasible.

  • Efficiencies in city operations can reduce the size of the general fund, having a positive effect on reducing the tax levy. Flattening debt payments or reducing the interest rate on debt can also reduce the tax levy.

At the same time as we work on fiscal discipline, we must also work on growing the tax base. Existing businesses must be nurtured, red tape removed, and unnecessary ordinances repealed to grow the local job market. Another way to create jobs locally is to marshal the city's entrepreneurial resources and create an Enterprise Incubation Center in one of the vacant downtown office buildings. Centralized office-operations amenities may be offered very affordably to each micro- to small-business upstart deemed viable by qualified screeners. While the task is daunting, we must embark on a long-term initiative to grow the number of businesses that call St. Paul home.

I believe that all my life experiences have prepared me to take on the role as your next mayor and revitalize our great city. I ask for your support and vote on Nov. 3.

Eva Ng is running for mayor of St. Paul, challenging incumbent Chris Coleman in the general election Nov. 3. Ng, who has lived in the St. Paul metro area for the past 12 years, worked in private business as a turn-around specialist for almost 30 years, most recently as CEO of Blanda, Inc., a custom manufacturing company. More information about her campaign is available at

Two Mayoral Candidates go Head-to-Head in St. Paul

Incumbent Chris Coleman said he'd helped the city's citizens in many ways. Eva Ng chided him for having higher ambitions.

By CHRIS HAVENS, Star Tribune
The two candidates for St. Paul mayor squared off together for the first time Tuesday night, a confident and experienced incumbent and a challenger unafraid to call him out.

"I have no other agenda than to serve the people of St. Paul," said political newcomer Eva Ng, who has criticized Mayor Chris Coleman for thinking about running for governor in 2010.

Coleman hasn't shied away from saying he's considering a bid for the higher office, saying St. Paulites need a partner in the Capitol. He plans to make a decision within weeks, before the Nov. 3 election.

More than 75 people turned out Tuesday night for a candidate forum at Highland Park Library/Hillcrest Recreation Center to hear what Coleman and Ng had to say. The candidates spent about an hour responding to audience questions during the event sponsored by the League of Women Voters.

The election is nonpartisan, but Coleman is endorsed by the city DFL Party, while Ng has captured the Republican endorsement.

Ng introduced herself as an "ordinary citizen" who has spent 30 years in business as a chemical engineer, turnaround consultant and CEO.

Coleman, a lifelong St. Paulite, listed some things he's proud to have worked on during his term, including "opening the doors" to city hall, progress on the Central Corridor light-rail line and fixing a recurring budget imbalance.

When asked about their top priorities, Ng mention freezing tax and fee rates, attracting jobs to widen the tax base and improving public safety. Coleman talked about education initiatives and public safety.

One question asked what the candidates would do to ease the tax burden. St. Paul levy amounts went up by 9 percent, 15.1 percent and 8 percent in the past three years. The City Council has approved a 6.1 percent maximum levy increase for 2010.

Coleman said property taxes aren't a good way to raise money but said the city has lost state aid since 2003 and obligations, such as public safety, haven't changed.

Businesswoman Eva Ng running steep uphill race in St. Paul Mayor's Race

By Joe Kimball | Thursday, Oct. 8, 2009

Eva Ng is a largely unknown candidate trying to unseat a well-known DFL incumbent mayor in the overwhelmingly DFL city of St. Paul.

This week, she debated Mayor Chris Coleman, disagreeing on taxes and spending, and on the coming light rail line. The League of Women Voters event Tuesday was covered by the Pioneer Press and Star Tribune.

Last week, the businesswoman charged into a liberal lion's den with her message that a business-like approach is needed to curb the high-flying taxes in the Capital City. Ng (pronounced "eng") spoke at a weekly luncheon of mostly retired union officials, former judges, politicians and journalists and assorted others. They meet for camaraderie and to discuss state and national affairs, and most of them have a decidedly liberal bent.

Ng, 51, emerged from the lunch session unscathed, although not unchallenged.

Last month, she survived St. Paul's primary election, finishing a distant second in a field of four candidates. She drew the support of 26 percent of voters, while the incumbent finished with 68 percent. During her campaign, she has frequently criticized Coleman, considered a likely candidate for governor, for refusing to say he would serve a full four-year mayoral term if re-elected.

A business approach
Ng worked for years as a turn-around specialist for an oil company and a consulting firm. She met the owner of a tool-and-die company in the Twin Cities while on a consulting job and eventually married him. She now works as CEO of his company but is taking a sabbatical, of sorts, to run for mayor. She still makes many of the decisions for the firm but isn't taking a paycheck because, Ng said, it wouldn't be right to get paid when she's campaigning and not working full time.

Ng said she'd use her experience in the corporate world to keep a lid on the city's rising property tax rate. Her approach to the job of running the city, she said, would be similar to her approach in restructuring businesses.

The city's "going in the wrong direction," she said, "losing businesses and losing residents."

To turn things around, she'd start by freezing property tax rates. Then she'd look at the city's assets and try to maximize their use.

Ng thinks the city has too many full-time attorneys and said she would rather contract with outside lawyers in many instances.

She'd slow down plans for the Central Corridor light rail line, which she feels is threatening the livelihood of many University Avenue businesses at a time when they are already suffering in this tough economy. That's a project to take on in the boom times, she said.

She'd like to use some of the empty downtown St. Paul building space to incubate small businesses.

Taking care of business
But she's not making too many other specific recommendations, at least not yet. As a business consultant, you have to come into each situation with an open mind, she said, and thoroughly examine each phase of the business before making specific changes. So that's what she'll do, if elected, she said.

Ng did says it's important for the city to be "business-friendly," invoking the Ronald Reagan mantra of making a bigger pie so that everyone gets a bigger slice of the action.

"If you bring in more businesses, you'll increase the demand for housing and we'll get more revenue," she said.

Despite a traditional Republican world view, Ng said she's running as an independent. The mayor's race is nonpartisan, but she does have the endorsement of city Republicans.

She was asked how she would deal with the unions that represent city workers.

"I would give them options and see what ideas they come up with for saving money," she said. "Unions are not necessarily a barrier to turning things around."

"Why in hell would you want to be mayor?" asked Larry Cohen, a former mayor of St. Paul who also served as a Ramsey County commissioner and as a district judge before retiring.

Said Ng: "Senior citizens say they're being taxed out of their homes, but I see hope in their eyes when they ask if I can do something. I want to honor that hope. I think this is the time. And I think it is a small repayment for what America has done for me."

China beginnings
Ng's story is an inspiring one, say many who've met with her.

As she described it last week, both of her parents were orphans living in China, who were sent at age 12, separately, by relatives to live in Hong Kong, where their families believed it was easier for children to make their way on their own.

Her parents met and married while working in a Hong Kong factory and ended up raising six children in an 8-by-8-foot room. Her father made $200 a month ironing jeans. The family came to the United States when Eva was 10; she studied hard and earned a chemical engineering degree from Texas A&M at a time when there weren't many jobs for engineers.

So she went back to school to learn computer programming at a time when DOS was emerging as the standard. She learned about computer networking and was soon using computers to automate sales force projects.

She worked for Texaco for 10 years, assigned to make improvements at various departments in plants around the country. Then she went to Chicago to work as a business turn-around consultant; she met her husband while consulting with Blanda Inc., and eventually moved here to run the Eagan company.

Fast learner
While admitting she has no political experience — and appearing to see that as a badge of honor — Ng said she's a fast learner with experience in turning around struggling enterprises.

And while many at the lunch disagreed with her philosophy of a business-friendly approach to running the city, they did give her credit for a vigorous effort in pursuing her campaign.

"I'd like to commend Eva," said Ruby Hunt, former St. Paul City Council member and Ramsey County commissioner who remains active in civic affairs. "In a short period of time, she's done a lot of homework to understand the issues facing St. Paul," Hunt said.

"Whether you agree with her, that's another matter," she said.

Rival criticizes St. Paul mayor’s travels, Coleman says he saved taxpayer money

Pioneer Press: Updated: 09/22/2009 09:23:56 PM CDT
By Dave Orrick


St. Paul mayoral challenger Eva Ng on Tuesday criticized Mayor Chris Coleman for traveling outside of St. Paul and charging his re-election fund.

The Coleman campaign called Ng’s move a “stunt” and said some of the trips could fall under official business, so charging his campaign saved taxpayers money.

Ng, who is endorsed by the Republican Party, made no allegation that Coleman broke any rules or laws, but the criticism underscores her charge that Coleman is running for re-election only as a springboard for a 2010 bid for governor. Coleman, a Democrat, has said he is seriously considering such a run.

“Last time I checked, you don’t need an airplane to campaign for mayor of St. Paul,” Ng said in a news release. She accused Coleman of being “totally checked out as mayor.”

Since March, the Chris Coleman for St. Paul Committee has reimbursed $1,932.95 in travel, hotel and meal expenses ranging from airline tickets to nights in Alexandria or meals in Rochester.

John Stiles, Coleman’s campaign manager, explained each of the expenses. Coleman spokesman and campaign worker Bob Hume, for example, traveled to Washington, D.C., in March to attend the National League of Cities convention.

“That could have been official business,” Stiles said. “We could have put it on the taxpayers, but he did some political work there, so we saved the taxpayers money and paid for it with the campaign.”

A number of the expenses were for Coleman’s lodging or meals at similar conferences and conventions, such as the National Convention of Young Democrats of America in Chicago in late July or the Minnesota Association for Justice in Alexandria in mid-August.

“The mayor is one of the most prominent Democrats in Minnesota, and he’s invited to go to events throughout the state,” Stiles said. “And when he’s invited, he goes.”

Stiles also jawed back at Ng.

“In six months, she does not have one single, honest-to-God proposal for making anyone’s life better in St. Paul,” he said. “This is stunt Number 3.”

Tuesday also featured a stunt that signaled the state Republican Party’s first overt move against Coleman. At an announcement of a city fund to benefit businesses affected by construction of the planned Central Corridor light-rail line, the state GOP introduced “Chicken Chris,” an operative dressed in a chicken suit who will likely follow Coleman around public appearances.

The chicken holds a sign that says: “Don’t be a chicken. Debate Eva,” a reference to Ng’s demand for seven debates with Coleman, one in each city ward.

Coleman has declined those debates, but the candidates have agreed to one next month sponsored by the League of Women Voters.


GOP-endorsed Eva Ng files to challenge St. Paul Mayor Coleman
Star Tribune: Last update: July 21, 2009 - 10:47 PM

A Republican-endorsed business executive is officially taking on incumbent St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman.

Eva Ng filed her candidacy papers with the Ramsey County Elections Office on Tuesday afternoon, the last day to do so.

Although she is endorsed by the city GOP, Ng is conducting a nonpartisan campaign. She describes herself as a center-right conservative who wants to make the city more friendly to businesses.

Along with her announcement, Ng urged Coleman to join her in signing a pledge to focus only on serving out the full term of mayor if elected, a dig at his gubernatorial ambitions.

Coleman, who is wrapping up his first term and holds the DFL endorsement, doesn’t “do gimmicks,” said campaign manager John Stiles. It’s no secret, he added, that Coleman has been thinking about running for governor.

“We welcome her to the race and look forward to having a conversation about the future of the city,” Stiles said.

Other mayoral candidates include Sharon Anderson and Bill Dahn.

Eva Ng is St. Paul Proud



Eva's Pledge to St. Paul

Paid for by Eva For Mayor