I ran hard for mayor of Minneapolis in 2013. Betsy Hodges lapped me in the vote count. We disagree on an enormous variety of issues. Nevertheless, over the weekend I cut her political war chest a check for the maximum permissible amount, $250.
So I read with interest Dan Cohen’s Counterpoint (“Does the Star Tribune now see what it gets with Betsy Hodges?” Nov. 3), in which he criticized the Star Tribune Editorial Board and the mayor. It would take more column inches than I have to unpack the irony of Cohen criticizing someone else for opposing a stadium and acting confidently — so I won’t try. Instead, if you’re curious why I maxed to my former opponent, read on.
There are two developments in present-day politics that my elders describe as relatively new: first, the perpetual campaign, and second, addressing policy issues via ad hominem nastiness rather than vigorous-yet-respectful disagreement. Those blights on the political landscape hinder our society’s ability to make sound decisions and turn off most people in my generation to the prospect of public service.
So, in accordance with the principle of “think globally, act locally,” I’ve sought to do my small part to ameliorate those trends. In the process, I’ve developed an unexpected yet genuine friendship with Mayor Hodges in the course of our time on the campaign trail and in the two years since.
Her public armor of professionalism often obscures these traits, but she is howlingly funny and an empathetic friend. Her personal story of making hard choices as a young adult to put her life on a healthier trajectory is inspiring. In her public life, she has demonstrated her commitment to bringing into existence a city in which every single person has an opportunity to thrive — even though I, along with my fellow residents of the center and right of the political spectrum, disagree with her profoundly on the best policies to achieve those worthy goals.
Among other things, here’s what she’s done right so far: When the atrocious conduct of the bad apples in our city’s Police Department undermined citizens’ trust in the force and cost the city large sums in settlement payments, she pushed for body cameras. When people who work hard for a living pointed out that sick pay enables sick workers to recuperate at home, thereby reducing the spread of diseases and furthering a culture in which we treat all fellow human beings with decency, she advocated for their needs. When a group of billionaires proposed that the people of Minneapolis exempt them from paying property taxes on their privately owned stadium, she wisely said no.
That said, there’s plenty of room for improvement as Hodges’ term continues. In my opinion, she and her team need to step it up on three key fronts so that City Hall fulfills its obligations to Minneapolis residents.
First, safety. Criminals are ravaging our streets. As the Star Tribune reported on Tuesday, “Minneapolis [is] on pace to log its deadliest year in nearly a decade. Violent crime — defined as homicides, robberies, rapes and aggravated assaults — jumped 11 percent in downtown Minneapolis … [A]ggravated assaults, which some crime experts point to as the best indicator of how safe a city is, rose about 12 percent …”
Mayor Hodges, fix it. Accelerate the expenditure of funds to expand the Police Department. Finish the rollout of body cameras so that good police officers will be protected from the court of YouTube opinion and citizens will be protected from violent officers. Engage the help of the FBI and the National Guard, if necessary. We cannot continue to allow Minneapolitans to be assaulted and shot dead in their own city.
Second, stop spending money we don’t have on things we don’t need. My wife says I’m a broken record on the proposed streetcar line, but at a cost of $54 million per mile, it’s the single clearest example of City Hall’s misplaced priorities.
And third, get out of the way of employers so that they can grow and hire. The recent proposal that all employers in the city would have to schedule workers 28 days in advance — more stringent than any similar policy anywhere else in the country — was a debacle that the business community throughout the region will long remember. The way forward is to implement immediately all of the suggestions for regulatory reform that City Attorney Susan Segal gathered from the city’s business community in the year before the scheduling proposal. Employers are the golden goose in our city; if we squeeze them, we won’t have enough jobs.
So with that tally of good and bad, why did I cut Hodges’ political fund a check? Because we’re not even two years into her term; anyone rooting for her to fail is really rooting for the city to fail. Because she has the self-awareness to build on her successes and learn from her missteps. Because even if one might not like her priorities and methods, there are other DFLers eyeing a run against her for the mayor’s office who aren’t as forthright or as selfless as she is. And because life is best lived in shades of gray, not black and white — and if we can’t all reach across the aisle from time to time to support someone who’s stepped into the arena to work for our city’s benefit, then we’re not the community we claim to be.
So keep cranking, Mayor Hodges — but please, don’t put my $250 toward that dang streetcar line.
Cam Winton, a Republican, is a resident of Minneapolis and an attorney in the power industry.