Below is the East Metro Voter Guide published this spring.
Name: Jennifer Nguyen Moore
Public Office Sought: Ramsey County Board of Commissioners, District 3
Facebook Page: Jennifer Nguyen Moore for Ramsey County Commissioner
As a woman of color and the daughter of Vietnamese refugees, I am running for the Ramsey County Board to ensure that our community thrives, and not just survives. I have lived in St. Paul my entire life, it’s my community and where my roots are. I grew up in Rondo on University Avenue--the southern border of our district, where my parents still live--and have lived in Hamline Midway and now the North End. North end has been my home for 9 years with my husband and our 1-year-old daughter.
I serve as a Ramsey County election judge because I care deeply about inclusive civic engagement and healthy democracy in all of our communities. Currently, I serve on two appointed advisory boards for the state related to health equity. As an environmental justice advocate and advisor for local government, I develop equitable programs, policies and services. Throughout my career, I ensure all residents, particularly communities of color and residents from traditionally marginalized communities, have access to resources to be environmental stewards. Policy development, education and advocacy is key to connect waste reduction to its impact in creating healthy communities.
1. Why are you running for this seat?
My father served in the Vietnam War and fought alongside American soldiers. Immediately after the war, my parents and siblings fled to America and settled in Minnesota. My parents wanted us to succeed, so much at whatever cost to them; they sacrificed by working basic jobs to support my family. They knew the value of connection and community and still made time to help people with citizenship test, applying for jobs, getting people prepared for their new job by providing clothes and driving them to work and interpreting for the Vietnamese community. Even though we didn’t have financial wealth, we knew to pay attention to a different kind of wealth, the gifts that people have inside of them. My parents taught me the value of working hard, fighting for what’s right and to do what I can to improve the quality of my life for myself and others.
Ramsey County has a budget of $700 million dollars. The Ramsey County Board is the conduit to individuals and families. They are the entity in which prioritize funding and delivers programs and services throughout the county. Some programs and services include: mental health, youth and senior programs and managing our bridges and roads. My family have utilized a range of county services from food assistance, disability services and the Women Infant Children (WIC) program to ensure our family have the support to stay afloat. The people most impacted by the county are the people who should govern the county board. I am running because the County board needs a person who have lived experienced as a recipient of county services.
Our community comprises of a large population of Black, Indigenous and residents of color, yet, there aren’t many elected officials that look like them, have the same perspectives or lived experiences as them. It is imperative that there is representation in our elected officials, so we can make the key policy decisions ensuring we are serving our entire community. I’m committed to breaking down barriers similar to what my parents and siblings experienced while assimilating to Minnesota. I am committed to building healthy communities and equitable systems that benefit all residents in District 3, while being honest about the disparities and cycle of poverty that are real for many of our residents. I will lead by working for equity and fairness in county policies, programs, and services.
2. What is the biggest challenge facing your district and how would you address it?
Investment in economic development and affordable housing. Along Rice street in the north end and along University Avenue in Frogtown there are vacant buildings that once were small businesses that flourished. The county can improve on reinvesting in District 3 by supporting local/small businesses and repairing the infrastructure (i.e. roads, sidewalks, signs) to reinvigorate these areas. Doing so will bring economic prosperity to our community by creating jobs and keeping profits within District 3. Addressing this disparity will address the biggest challenge facing our community, the need to break the cycle of poverty.
3. What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing Ramsey County as a whole and how would you address it?
Ramsey County includes many communities with varying levels of socioeconomic backgrounds. One of the biggest challenges faced within the entire county is how programs and services are equitably distributed. There are major disparities and parts of the county. It is apparent that certain areas within the county including Eastside, Frogtown and North End are disinvested. This perpetuates the cycle of poverty in these areas that typically affect residents of color the most.
My role would be to shift focus and funds to District 3 and prioritize key community areas within the district that require reinvestment. I would prioritize programs that support new entrepreneurs who seek employees who live in the community, focus county funds to individuals and residents to give them the support they need. Another key role I would play is to build community and engage with our constituents to learn what are the obstacles and barriers to bringing resources to the area. We may find that it may simply be an issue of awareness and access to the resources. This new attention to these disinvested communities will take a holistic approach to address these disparities.
4. What would be your top three priorities if (re-)elected to the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners?
It is my commitment to ensure equity is included in the framework and rhetoric of all policy decisions. Below are just a few priorities outlined, however, a holistic approach is needed to ensure our community thrives. Visit my website www.nguyenmoore.com to learn more.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS: Stable and Quality Housing Opportunities and Programs for All
There is responsibility to acknowledge and remove barriers residents face to break out of the cycle of poverty in our district by having a secure and economical place to live. This should be a right for all residents of District 3 and Ramsey county as a whole. Unfortunately, many in our district don’t have stable housing. There are multiple layers why our residents cannot afford housing: increasing prices, shortages, poverty, chemical dependency, and not having access to livable wages contribute to the problem. It is valuable to combat homelessness by addressing the many reasons why our residents are experiencing homelessness. As a way to break the cycle of poverty, we need to look at short-term and long-term solutions to address immediate needs and broader systemic issues. This includes examining solutions with a lens of equitable development and potential impacts of gentrification, and finding ways to diversify our neighborhoods instead of concentrating wealth and poverty. As we consider investing in infrastructure, let’s work to ensure it honors our diversity and community members with roots in neighborhoods instead of displacement.
ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE AND PUBLIC HEALTH: Creating Healthy Communities
Creating healthy communities throughout our District is a value of mine. A healthy community is an environment where we create regenerative systems to nourish our body, mind and wellness, while preserving and protecting our natural resources. This includes access to healthy food and how to prepare it, and access to green spaces to live healthy lives such as parks, trails, and community gardens.
Environmental Justice is the concept where health impacts are minimized or eliminated in marginalized communities who experience health issues such as asthma, cancer depression and other chronic illness as a result of pollution. Environmental Justice is the connectivity between protecting and preserving our natural resources, establish a healthy relationship with the land we live on and promoting healthy people. When policies are created to consider sustainability and address public health issues, our residents live healthy lives.
We live in a society where we are pressured to replace our belongings to “keep up” with changing technology. When we buy new items, we know our waste “goes away.” System takes things away and we rarely think about where it goes and how it impacts us. In our community, our garbage is burned or landfilled. Both methods impacts our health by poisoning our bodies with poor air quality and contaminated water. There should be a greater sense of urgency to close the waste management system by reducing waste, purchasing durable goods, repairing broken items and repurposing items.
I live and breathe advocating for environmental, racial and social justice. These concepts are rooted in professional and personal work in the public, nonprofit and community sectors. Professionally, I have advocated for access in education and resources on environmental issues, zero waste, creating system and programs to reduce environmental and health impacts and racial equity. As a mother, I am cognizant of the toxic chemicals and contaminants in plastics and its impact to our health. Not only does this value extend to my family, I ensure my friends and residents I serve are aware of the impact. Community health and awareness ensures all residents are whole, safe and robust. It is imperative that elected officials create and maintain policies that protect and conserve our precious resources while ensuring human health and safety.
HEALTHY DEMOCRACY: Inclusive Civic Engagement
A healthy democracy is important to ensure all issues I’ve raised in this campaign will support the lives in District 3 and Ramsey County as a whole. It is my intention to remove the barriers of civic engagement and political participation that exist in our community. This includes minimizing the disparities with communities of color, making the process more welcoming to new voters and voters who speak English as a second language, providing resources to voting tools where they are lacking and working to ensure that more voices are heard through our elections.
Among other reasons, I personally ensure a healthy democracy in my community by serving as an election judge. As a woman of color, I want to honor the historical struggles that have come before me to earn my right to vote. Policies have a huge impact on communities, voting is an essential way to make your voice heard. Sadly, I see how many people don’t vote because policies are often made to work against them as people of color. We can work to build an understanding of the value of voting, thereby creating excitement and a commitment to participate. I would like to see the following done to develop more interest in the process: create and educate on tools and resources to successfully register, understand who is on the ballot, and help people better understand how voting impacts them and their community. One barrier I am passionate about addressing is having more representation among election judges, as there is a lack of representation among youth, people of color, immigrant and refugee communities, and multilingual election judges. This will create a more inclusive environment where more voters can see people that look and sound like them.
5. Should county government be actively involved in attracting and retaining jobs? Why or why not? If yes, please describe the role for the county in this process.
Yes, it is imperative for government to support economic prosperity so that residents have a stable job, stable housing and can break from the cycle of poverty. The county can provide technical and financial resources to ensure business owners can continue to operate. Examples of technical resources include: applying for permits, grant funding and recycling and solid waste management tools. The County will lessen the financial burden for businesses to operate, thereby can shift their resources to hiring, developing and retaining jobs.
6. What role should county government play in economic development, and how should the county work with partner organizations?
For small immigrant businesses to success, there is a need for a network of support. This network could comprise of businesses owned by a similar community who can share resources, best management practices and tips on navigating the County programs and services. The purpose of this network is to keep these businesses operating to support economic development in our community.
The County could partner with immigrant community organizations to help new immigrant businessowners navigate the county permitting systems. For instances, the County can provide and advertise resources in multiple language, target outreach within a particular community and designate funding to a specific community. Having this resource will ensure businessowners with potentially limited English proficiency are completing required reporting and documentation. This community engagement rather than enforcement approach will build relationships within the community.
My father owned a couple of businesses in Saint Paul. He owned a jewelry store in Rondo and opened a restaurant in the North End. While he owned his jewelry store, we have had safety risks as a result of robberies. His businesses are no longer operating because he did not have the financial and moral support. If there were resources described above available to my father, I believe his businesses would still prosper.
7. What do you believe are the most essential services provided by county government?
The county impacts our daily lives in many ways from our roads, to our community spaces such as libraries to our health and human services. Every service the County provides is essential for all residents in Ramsey County. Where the County can improve is how these services are distributed to Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) residents. There is a justifiable level of mistrust with the government among BIPOC communities. The mistrust is prevalent when there are elected officials and County staff who do not have the lived experience of being a BIPOC in this community and may lack the emotional intelligence to serve these communities based on their needs.
The County has many opportunities to build relationships among BIPOC residents by having elected officials and staff reflect the community they serve. There are many perspectives missing in our County board and among executive staff at the County. I bring these missing perspectives as a candidate of color, a second-generation refugee, a millennial, a new parent and a North End, Saint Paul resident. The people best fit to govern and serve our community are the people who live the same struggles county recipients experience. It will be necessary for the county to have more BIPOC staff as elected officials, community health nurses, case workers, election judges, executive leadership and supervisory positions.
Increasing civic engagement and developing a healthy democracy is one of my passions. I served as a head judge for Ramsey County Elections because I believe it’s necessary to have representation at the polls. This provides of feeling of inclusivity when a person who looks like you is running the precinct. It also helps make the voting process less intimidating and more welcoming to voters who may not speak the language. Ramsey County has more work to do to hire more election judges of color and to change policies so that many people can feel comfortable exercising their civic duty.
These staff and elected officials will be able to rebuild the trust, identify and implement key programs and services needed most by these communities.
8. Are there any services that the county does not provide that you believe it should?
As an environmental justice and racial equity advocate, I see a quality missing from how programs and services are delivered. There should be greater effort in addressing racial equity and acknowledging the impact of how BIPOC residents receive services based on implicit and explicit racial biases. The concept of equity needs to be applied to all facets of County programs, services, policies and initiatives.
Throughout this campaign, I will be meeting with our community to learn how the County can improve services and what may be lacking. We are experts because of their lived experiences as a community member and a Ramsey County resident.
9. Are there any services currently provided by the county that you believe should be cut back or eliminated?
All programs and services are essential to all residents in the county and no program should be eliminated. I believe there are ways we can reframe how programs and services are distributed to ensure the services are delivered equitably.
10. How would you characterize the business climate in Ramsey County? What, if anything, would you do to change it?
There is an array of small and large businesses within Ramsey County. There is a need to support both types of businesses to ensure the County residents flourishes. As we continue to spend our money at Ramsey County businesses, we are supporting individuals and families to follow their dreams by being able to financially provide and care for their families. Throughout my campaign, I will be reaching out to local businesses to learn how the County can support their livelihood, and in their perspective, what changes should be made.
11. Many communities and government entities in the East Metro collaborate to provide services to their residents in an effort operate more efficiently and cost effectively. Do you believe that Ramsey County uses such partnerships appropriately, and can you identify any specific areas where more sharing of services should be used?
As a public servant for the City of Bloomington, I collaborate with neighboring cities and community organizations to share best management practices and suggestions on program efficiencies. This value will be applied as County Commissioner to deliver the best to our constituents while saving time and money.
12. In your view, what is Ramsey County’s top transportation priority and how would you advance it?
The county’s top transportation priority should be to ensure all residents have access to reliable and efficient transportation. Many residents within the county cannot afford a vehicle and must utilize public transportation. Our constituents rely on public transportation (buses and light rail) to get them to their jobs, doctor’s appointment, schools. The infrastructure for public transportation is inaccessible and efficient for some constituents. To take the bus from Frogtown, North End of Payne Phalen to downtown Saint Paul, it may take up to 30 minutes on the bus as opposed to 10 minutes driving.
I will prioritize funding Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and look at how we can increase bus stop frequency to improve efficiency. There are two key pieces that should be included in any future transportation plan 1). include maximized accessibility to riders with a physical and mental disability. 2). Ensure businesses are accessible to patrons (and advertise businesses are open) while major transportation construction occurs. The tenant who rents a building my family owns struggled to keep up with business during the green line light rail construction. Although the business was accessible to patrons, many customers refused to visit.
13. Is there anything else you would like to share with voters not covered above?
I believe my lived experiences as a Ramsey County services recipient and a daughter of a family of entrepreneurs will bring the needed perspective to the County Board. Thank you for your consideration.