The rookie City Council’s agenda involving goats, Styrofoam and earplugs in recent months earned Lisa Bender some ribbing Monday night during an interview interspersed with improv comedy at Bryant Lake Bowl.
“Forget everything you know about the City Council,” declared one actor. “This is Crazytown.”
Uptown’s newest council member went on stage with the Theater of Public Policy to tout her support for engaging more constituents, enhancing regional transit and paying attention to how development is built in Minneapolis – but not without some grilling about council priorities.
“I wonder, does that hurt Minneapolis’ image at some point?” asked host Tane Danger. “Do we look like we’re just silly to other people?”
Bender’s response drew laughter.
“This would not be my preference of the issues that we focus on,” she said. “I’ll just leave it at that.”
The mother of two said she represented a more open style of leadership in a ward where most people are renters.
“Honestly, it’s probably easier to represent the homeowners who are going to definitely be there in four years and who always vote … just kind of basically represent them the best I can and hope no one else will notice and sail through,” she said. “But that’s not my plan.”
When Danger joked about how many people see living in the city as a phase until the kids come along, Bender said she sees a lot of families with children in this part of town.
“Someone forgot to tell me that I’m supposed to move now,” she said. But, she added, Minneapolis is not doing enough to make the city “a really, really awesome place to live.”
Bender hit a lot of the right notes for an Uptown crowd when she talked about wanting to make the city more friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists and increase affordable housing.
But she didn’t have a good answer when a woman in the audience asked how the council member would convince her husband to move out of U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann’s district into the neighborhood.
“I’m trying to get Jim Graves to open a hotel,” Bender joked, referring to Bachman’s challenger in 2012.
“What’s the sales pitch?” Danger pressed Bender.
“Why wouldn’t you want to live in Uptown? It’s such a great place,” she said, prompting one audience member to mutter that her response was lame.
In between her conversation with Danger, improv actors performed skits about being kicked out of Uptown after turning 30 and having to buy a home there to be allowed to vote.
Of course, there were plenty of goat noises, in a dig at the movement to legalize hoofed animals within city limits.
As she explained the importance of improving the transportation system, Bender revealed that she and two other council members recently sat for an hour and a half reviewing the wrong Southwest light rail plan sent to the city by the Met Council. (The correct one was supposed to arrive today.)
“Then we’ll all get back on track,” said Bender.
“No pun intended,” added Danger.