April is the cruelest month. You don’t have to trust T.S. Eliot on that, just look to Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges.
To be fair, March didn’t end so swell either, with a report from the Department of Justice that foreshadowed “the apparent strained relationship between Mayor Hodges and [Police] Chief [Janeé] Harteau,” which led to “inconsistent, uncoordinated leadership” during the Fourth Precinct occupation in the weeks after the fatal police shooting of Jamar Clark in November 2015.
Then came a mind-boggling April.
On April 4, Hodges got some support at the DFL caucuses, but the perception was that Jacob Frey did better. A political pundit I spoke with called the incumbent’s showing “disappointing.”
Ten days later, on April 14, Hodges’ campaign manager and organizing director resigned. Kyrstin Schuette, the organizing director, said they decided jointly to quit, and she added that “it boiled down to a difference in values.” Not campaign strategy, like they normally say, but values.
Hodges went on the attack April 17, when she gave a speech about the need for cities to stand up to the challenges of a Donald Trump presidency. It was a good target for a liberal city mayor, setting herself up as the primary foil against an unpopular president. The mayor said Minneapolis would remain “a beacon of unity in a time of deliberate division.”
The next day, the New York Observer named Hodges the second worst mayor in America.
The Observer article cited the loss of the soccer stadium to St. Paul and a weak stand on crime, among other faults. It wasn’t a completely fair shot, but Hodges used it to strengthen her anti-Trump credentials. The publication was owned until recently by Jared Kushner.
“Well, I got Trump’s attention,” she said of her speech. “When Trump’s cronies are the people attacking you, you know you’ve done something right.”
Hodges was inferring that the criticism stemmed from her speech, but it was clear it had to have been written well in advance of it. In fact, in an e-mail to a reporter, the author of the article said he had written and filed the piece in February and March, and it had been scheduled to run for at least two weeks. It had nothing to do with the mayor’s speech, and he has had no contact with anyone in the Trump organization, he wrote.
I give Hodges a “B” for effort on the spin, though.
Then, on April 24, Hodges dropped a bombshell on social media, acknowledging she was the victim of sexual abuse for years, starting at age 8. Hodges received an outpouring of sympathy from people who saw the disclosure as courageous. In the heat of a campaign, however, Hodges also risked backlash by those who might be suspicious of the timing. I doubt it changed many people’s votes, but it was another highly unusual twist in an already odd mayoral race.
Just two days later, Hodges made another unprecedented move by nixing Harteau’s appointment of police Lt. John Delmonico for the top job in the Fourth Precinct.
It gets stranger.
Delmonico once bizarrely accused the mayor of hanging with gang members and flashing signs in a controversy known as “Pointergate.” As Fourth Precinct inspector, he would be leading the city’s toughest and most visible precinct in a community suspicious of cops. So you might think Harteau would recognize their history and give the mayor, say, a few days notice. Instead, Harteau texted Hodges the morning of the announcement. The mayor texted her response back to Harteau.
The mayor and chief work in the same building. I’ve seen middle schoolers with more sophisticated communication strategies. What’s next, announcing major policy initiatives on Snapchat?
Still, it gets stranger.
On April 27, sources said the mayor only had 90 minutes to decide on Delmonico’s promotion, and said that the chief did it without her approval. Hodges threw the chief under the squad car, and community activists praised her.
At this point, I was leaning toward the mayor. I should have realized April was not over.
The next day, Harteau shared the content of texts from the mayor with a reporter that told a different story. Do I really need to tell you people not to put things in writing that contradict your public statements?
“Your call, though I have a question or two,” Hodges wrote to Harteau. A normal person would probably take that to mean the hire was “your call.”
Hodges then asked if they could trust Delmonico, given the political atmosphere. Harteau said Delmonico “will do what I need him to do.”
“Great. Love that,” wrote Hodges.
Did Harteau choose Delmonico to take a shot at the mayor and show the troops she’s in charge? Maybe.
But, sorry mayor, I’m just not buying that “your call” and “love that” left any doubt of tacit approval for the chief’s appointment. The residents and officers of the Fourth Precinct need to know they are more than pawns in a personal grudge match.
With all the action in the Minneapolis mayoral race, you just knew St. Paul would feel a little left out. So now they have gone old school, with accusations of potential bribery attempts by mayoral candidate Dai Thao of a lobbyist, Sarah Clarke, who happens to be married to Frey. Thao has said he had no knowledge of any attempt to solicit an illegal contribution and is cooperating with authorities.
If there isn’t eventually a scene in one of the back booths at Mancini’s Char House, I’m going to be really disappointed. At long last, we are getting back to normal.