Hennepin County has removed an Internet link to a commemorative video that features Minneapolis mayoral candidate Mark Andrew, who is a former County Board chairman.
After the board got a preview of the video during a briefing last Thursday, Commissioner Peter McLaughlin shared a link to the video through his Twitter and Facebook accounts. The video didn’t go up on the county’s official website but was available on YouTube.
Mayoral candidate Cam Winton called the release of the video a “fishy” move and said his view was confirmed by the county’s decision to remove the link.
In an e-mail sent Sunday, Board Chairman Mike Opat directed county administrators to break the public link Monday morning. The video was to be shown and given a final review at the County Board meeting next Tuesday. Opat said the public viewing will not occur until after the Minneapolis mayoral election.
“The final weeks of a hotly contested election is a highly emotional time where all parties are on edge and prone to claims of unfair practices by opponents,” Opat wrote, but added, “Hennepin County should not develop its work plan, including its public outreach, based on any municipal election. The more interesting discussion we will now have to consider will involve how and when we will release videos including commissioners involved in close re-election contests.”
The video was made as part of a yearlong celebration and campaign to publicize the community works program, whose birth dates to a multi-jurisdictional meeting convened in August 1993. The idea was to combine efforts by schools, the juvenile justice system, communities, the city, county and inner-ring suburbs to combat increased unemployment and crime and promote economic vitality and health.
The four-minute video looks at two early projects — the Midtown and Humboldt greenways in Minneapolis — and intersperses old footage of how they used to look with the new versions featuring well-maintained homes, green grass, bike paths and walkways. In addition to community leaders, Andrew and McLaughlin speak about the Midtown Greenway. Opat and City Council President Barb Johnson discuss the Humboldt project.
No one disputes Andrew’s catalytic role in Community Works or the Midtown Greenway. Winton, however, said the county could have waited three weeks to release the video and “nobody would have said boo.”
The video was made by a county public affairs staff member as part of her regular duties. The county regularly produces videos to highlight various programs.
County Board members at a briefing last week got a preview of the video for review. When McLaughlin, an Andrew supporter, posted the link to the video via social media, other candidates were upset.
Winton asked State Auditor Rebecca Otto for a review of the situation. She has since directed him to the state Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board. Winton said Monday he’s satisfied with the county’s decision to pull the video from public view even though he said the initial link to it “stunk to high heaven.”
He said the video also illustrated the cozy “back-scratching culture” of politics and highlighted why he’s running for mayor as an outsider.
McLaughlin responded with a dismissive, “Oh, please,” and added, “I’d call it evidence of a celebration of governmental units working to achieve good things.”
McLaughlin, Opat and Andrew all served on the County Board together in the 1990s.
Andrew’s campaign spokeswoman Marion Greene said the video “wasn’t at all coordinated as a campaign thing” and that it’s “hard to tell the history of community works at the county without involving Mark.”