Two days before the Minneapolis City Council budget hearing, a group of powerful downtown business leaders surprised Mayor Betsy Hodges with a stern, exasperated lecture on the importance of making the city’s center safer and more inviting.
Signed by Steve Cramer of the Downtown Council and three other males who sought to speak for the core businesses, the letter might be seen as an effort in “mansplaining,” a term used when a male ventures to explain some complicated issue to a woman, “in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing.”
The business leaders say they are frequently confronted with the question: “What is going on in Minneapolis?” That question is not a request for the community calendar, but rather, a cry for help.
“We are steadfast in our plea that we cannot have another year like last one,” they warned, citing both the perception and reality that downtown is at times unsafe.
Hodges’ response was a masterpiece of barely controlled passive-aggressive seething, unique in a way that a Nut Goodie or a Post-it note is unique — in other words, something that could be manufactured only in Minnesota.
I’m afraid, however, the message was lost on downtown leaders. The two sides simply speak different languages.
Luckily, I have experience in teaching English as a second language, and I’m a man who is frequently forced to parse perplexing, conflicting messages from the opposite sex, namely, my wife.
Here is my attempt to translate, mansplain, parts of the mayor’s actual letter back to the interested parties. You’re welcome. (Translation in italics):
Gentlemen (Patriarchal Overlords):
Thank you for your letter to me of Dec. 5, which I take as a response to the short- and long-term plans for public safety Downtown that I proposed two months ago. I am gratified that your top request of me is to implement the ideas I proposed two months ago for a public-safety plan for Hennepin Avenue.
(Helloooooo! I said all this, like, two months ago. You know, the lady at the HEAD of the table? Were you listening? Of course not. You never listen. These are my ideas. Mine. Quit stealing my ideas and passing them off as yours.)
As you know, adoption of the 2017 budget is scheduled for tomorrow. For this reason, I am puzzled by the timing of your request. I have now been put in the position of having to defend the funding I proposed for your respective organizations, instead of advocating for it.
(I hate to sound snippy, but do I always have to clean up after you guys? This was my day, and you made it about you. I bet you go to the fishing opener on Mother’s Day too.)
We agreed that it was wise to wait until after budget adoption so that I could focus my efforts in the interim on advocating for the many investments that I have made in the 2017 budget that are of importance to Downtown … particularly since they are not universally popular among City Council members who will vote on adopting them.
(Do you really want to deal with Alondra Cano and Cam Gordon? Fine. They’re yours. Come on, people, help me out here.)
(Following a list of the mayor’s “accomplishments” on downtown crime): Mr. Cramer and Mr. (Tom) Hoch reported significant improvement along Hennepin Avenue as a result of these steps: Mr. Hoch said, “It’s a completely different street.”
(Boom! Hoch, you can use that as a campaign slogan if you’d like. Or, I will.)
I have heard in private conversations with each of you that you appreciate the investments that I have made and the strategies that we have devised in partnership to improve people’s safety and experience of Downtown.
(In private, you nod your heads in approval, then you get together and it’s all my fault. God, I hate obsequious backstabbers.)
Nevertheless, I have overestimated the level of communication among you: I hope this letter and the attached memorandum will fill in any gaps.
(Seriously, I’m dancing backward here, in heels. Do I have to do everything?)
Now that I do understand that your level of communication is not as strong as I had assumed, I appreciate all the more the opportunity to provide further leadership and coordination around public safety Downtown.
(I have a long memory, a short temper and a year to go on my term).
Sincerely, (No, really, sincerely,)
Mayor Betsy Hodges (Still the mayor, deal with it).
Follow Jon on Twitter: @jontevlin