All of Minneapolis is on the list for Betsy Hodges’ free inaugural event. Donors will pick up the tab.
Unlike two of her predecessors, Mayor Betsy Hodges won’t be charging guests to attend her first-term inaugural bash Saturday night.
Instead, donors are picking up the tab for the One Minneapolis celebration at a converted warehouse in Northeast. They can give unlimited amounts to a special political committee set up for the occasion.
Just who those donors are remains unknown. Aaron Wells, a spokesman for Hodges’ transition team, said they will release the full list after the event. The IRS will eventually require disclosure this spring.
Those interested could also keep an eye on a side door of the Thorp Building at 5:30 p.m., where donors and other VIPs will gather for an exclusive reception preceding the official event, which begins at 7 p.m.
Each council member has been given four tickets to attend that Thank You Reception. It will feature valet parking, music, an open bar and hors d’oeuvres, according to a letter sent from City Council majority leader John Quincy to the rest of the council.
It’s not uncommon for donors to bankroll inaugural celebrations. St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman solicited recently for his inaugural, with donors ranging from Mortenson Construction to Comcast and several law firms. Past Minneapolis mayors have charged guests to cover most costs for their first-term kickoff, however.
In 2002, new Mayor R.T. Rybak charged $125 a plate for dinner or $25 for dessert and coffee for his ball at the Minneapolis Convention Center. A transition spokeswoman said then that they hoped the ticket sales would cover the event cost.
In 1994, new Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton charged $25 for her dinner and dance at the Minneapolis Hilton. “We priced it to be as affordable as possible, just to cover the dinner expenses,” event chairwoman Marion Jones Kennon said at the time.
Neither Rybak’s campaign treasurer nor his former aide Peter Wagenius — now working in the Hodges administration — could recall hosting a big public inaugural gala after Rybak’s re-elections in 2005 and 2009. There were smaller, more private affairs for the council members and their families.
Wells said the Hodges team wanted the Saturday night event to be as inclusive as possible. “The theme of the event is One Minneapolis, and we wanted anybody who wanted to attend to have the ability to go,” he said.
As of Thursday afternoon, nearly 270 people had RSVP’d to the main event on Facebook. It will feature free food, a cash bar and performances by Chastity Brown, the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus and other local performers.
Hodges is separately raising money to pay off debt racked up during the campaign. She owed about $40,000 to vendors as of the last campaign filing.
Eric Roper • 612-673-1732 • Twitter: @StribRoper