St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, re-elected to a third term Tuesday in a landslide, and Betsy Hodges, who is now mayor-elect of Minneapolis, met for lunch Thursday on Hodges’ home turf at the IDS Center in downtown Minneapolis.
The hourlong one-on-one meeting carried on a tradition initiated by Coleman’s departing counterpart, R.T. Rybak, when the two met for lunch in St. Paul just after Coleman’s election. That first meeting was helpful and set a cooperative tone, Coleman said.
“It was a great opportunity to begin what I believe was some of the most important work that we’ve done over the last eight years,” he said, “which was to really focus on not what our differences were, not to be competitors, but to understand that we are absolutely at our best when we act regionally, when we act as cities that cooperate — when we understand that our competition is not with each other, but with other cities across the country and across the globe.”
Some of those common issues include transit, including the Central Corridor light-rail line connecting the two downtowns of the Twin Cities that is nearing completion, the Greater MSP economic development partnership of the two cities and, at the top of their agendas, finding ways to help schools close the racial educational achievement gap. “We have got to move the dial” on that issue, Hodges said.
Coleman and Hodges have been friends for a long time — he endorsed her candidacy. She is former president of the League of Minnesota Cities, and he takes over next week as president of the National League of Cities. Coleman also presented Hodges with a framed art piece titled “612/651” by St. Paul artist Adam Turman.
Hodges said she was grateful for Coleman’s insights on the job, and said she planned to build on the cooperative base he and Rybak had established.
She also reiterated her support for alternatives to the proposed “shallow tunnel” route for the Southwest light-rail line and, although an opponent of the new Vikings stadium, pledged to work on the city’s behalf to see that it brings its promised economic development to the east part of downtown.
Asked what advice he offered to Hodges, Coleman quipped, “Whatever you do, you don’t want to take lessons from the mayor of Toronto. Look to other mayors to be your role model.”
He was referring to Rob Ford, who has acknowledged smoking crack cocaine while drunk, but has refused to step down.