Betsy Hodges is not my friend. For those who’ve suggested my support of her is based on nothing more than personal friendship, well, no. We have never had a meal together. Never met for tea. We aren’t in the same book club. I’ve been to her home once, for a campaign event. We have a close friend in common and we met at his wedding. We both love poetry, which I discovered when I helped organize her inaugural, which — by the way — did not make me her friend. We spoke once by phone during that time, when she uttered words that no event planner ever wants to hear: “I want poetry.”
Hodges and I are what some might call “acquaintance plus” or “friends lite.” As the mayor of a major metropolitan area I’m guessing she has about three free hours per week, and I hope she is spending that time mostly with Gary; we will get to him later.
After hearing the “you must be friends” thing more than a few times I started to get irritated, because Betsy Hodges is not my friend — she is my mayor. You can’t wave off my support for Hodges because you assume we must be besties. We are not.
So here are the reasons I’m supporting Mayor Hodges. If you are still wondering who to vote for, or what Hodges has done to earn a second term, please read on. If you need a few laughs because this campaign season is feeling pretty long right now, I promise to deliver both facts and a few good lines. I kept it short with lots of pics for all you visual learners out there.
1. Wonking in A Winter Wonderland
Yes, Mayor Betsy Hodges is a Big Time policy wonk. Is this a negative? Damn, I don’t think so. I want a mayor who can’t wait to curl up with a 482 page budget document and dream of ways to make it better. And that budget is balanced by the way. For reals.
2. The Police Federation is not her friend.
One of the critiques of Mayor Hodges is her handling of police issues — but we all remember Pointergate, right? This made the national news and was fodder for late night talk shows. There are so many articles to link to ridiculous and racist aberration that I can hardly chose…. but here’s another.
The Police Federation and its current leader Bob Kroll, and past leader John Delmonico, have fought hard against Hodges’ efforts to reform the department by requiring better training, body cams, etc. They often take aim at her personally and still she has not backed down. Reforming the MPD and police departments across the nation is going to be a long-term effort. Hodges has never backed down and continues to make progress on this essential challenge — now with the help of new Chief Medaria Arradondo.
3. Long-term, devoted support of our LGBTQ community
Betsy Hodges has long been a friend and ally to the LGBTQ community. She supported the Trans Equity Summit. As Senator Scott Dibble has said more than once — no one (except him!) worked harder to see that ALL Minnesotans have the right to fully legal and recognized marriage in Minnesota. Also, she looks damn good riding sissy every year at the Pride Parade!
4. The Long Game
Hodges is the master of the long game. She is relentless in the pursuit of betterment for the city and its residents, even when the issue is so complex, or so controversial, that it takes a long time to address. Hodges never gives up. Even when people tell her it can’t be done — as was the case with the police pension fund — she will persist. Here are a couple of her hard-won achievements:
PENSION REFORM: Taking the lead in going after a wildly irresponsible police and firefighter pension fund that benefited a small group of retirees and threatened to cost taxpayers $20 million in property tax increases to keep afloat. The political push back was ugly and ferocious. She persisted and saved city taxpayers millions, and this achievement was highlighted in the StarTribune’s endorsement of Hodges in 2013.
PARKS AND POTHOLES: After three decades of warnings that the residential streets in the city were crumbling past the point of no return, Hodges, the city council and the park board finally came up with a Parks and Streets Investment plan that will provide a $33 million investment a year for 20 years. The mayor vetoed the plan twice because it was not fully funded or did not include street upgrades. In the end, she got a plan to make substantial investments that was backed by real dollars.
NORTHERN METALS a.k.a THE KONDIRATOR: Under Mayor Hodges leadership, the city, Minnesota PCA and the Northern Metals Corporation finally — finally!!! — reached a settlement to move its operations out of north Minneapolis. Betsy worked to secure $2.5 million for asthma mitigation for residents who have suffered for years from the air and ground pollution from the metal recycling company. This issue had been getting batted around for almost as long as I have lived in Minneapolis! (A very, very long time.)
5. Bicycle Betsy
Mayor Hodges created the Transportation Planning Division with an eye to the city of the future — to make sure walkers, people with disabilities, cyclists, and transit riders have their transportation needs addressed. This is not an easy transition for some — even yours truly was in a car/bike road rage incident where I was intentionally run off the road by a car. The Mayor’s critics call her “Bicycle Betsy,” but I and many walkers/bikers like me appreciate her efforts to create safe transit ways for all. Shout out here to CM Lisa Bender as well!
6. Just Saying No to Billionaire One Percenters
I’m tired of subsidizing stadiums, aren’t you?
The MN United FC soccer stadium will be built in St Paul, not Minneapolis because the wealthy ownership group –which includes the publisher of the StarTribune — demanded an unprecedented permanent exemption from property taxes at the proposed stadium site.
Betsy said no and the owners were unwilling to compromise. Mayoral candidate Jacob Frey has decried the loss of the stadium as poor leadership on Hodges part, but I think it was quite the opposite. Note too that the stadium was part of the stated reason the StarTribune decided not to endorse Hodges this time round. Does anyone else feel there may be some conflict of interest floating around the edges of this issue? I sure do.
The proposed Minneapolis stadium site was near the downtown Farmer’s Market. This area is close to the Southwest Light Rail Line and will soon be developed with property tax-paying businesses and produce substantial revenue for the city in years to come. Hodges made the right choice for the city and I am happy for St Paul. It’s a Twin Towns win/win.
7. This guy
This guy is Gary Cunningham. He is an awesome and accomplished dude. His resume is as impressive as he is a good and decent man. A Harvard grad, he is President and CEO at the Metropolitan Economic Development Association and sits on the Metropolitan Council. I’ve met and talked with Gary at events over the years and never failed to walk away impressed. This guy is also Mayor Hodges’ husband. Cunningham and Hodges are both incredibly committed to our community. It’s not a stretch for me to say I think it’s their life’s work. They bring their passion for the common good to everything they are a part of, and we are so very fortunate to have them as civic leaders. They are also incredible dancers. (Which I discovered at the above mentioned wedding.)
8. CREATING A GREEN CITY
If there is one thing I am incredibly passionate about it is the health of our earth, air and water. Mayor Hodges is a national leader in the movement to create Green Cities. This is one of her areas of achievement that people seem to know least about. So here’s a couple of things to know:
When Hodges came into office, less than one-half of one percent of the City’s electricity came from renewable sources. By the end of her first term, it will be 38.6%. And though renewables still cost more, it won’t cost the city a premium. In true Hodges style, Betsy brought Xcel and CenterPoint Energy to the table in a first-in-the-nation Clean Energy Partnership and won an increase in the franchise fee these utilities pay to the city. Minneapolis will use those funds to purchase additional renewable energy. As a result by the end of 2018 67% of the City’s electricity will be renewably sourced, and by 2022 all the City’s electricity will come from wind and solar.
While still on the City Council Hodges championed a pilot organics recycling program. As mayor, she fully funded the program to ensure its implementation citywide. If you’re wondering why we aren’t still separating cans and bottles or trying to figure out why the backyard compost bin isn’t really working like it should ….. well, we have Mayor Hodges to thank for that.
9. Standing up in the age of Trump
I am very proud that Minneapolis is a Sanctuary City. Like many major cities across the country, Minneapolis’ status as a “sanctuary city” is based on its immigration separation ordinance, which prevents its personnel and police officers from inquiring about the immigration status of individuals. Simple enough, and most police departments support this. Enforcing federal law is not their job, and many believe it hinders effective policing. However, maintaining our Sanctuary City status under the threats from the Trump administration is also hugely symbolic. It means that we will stand together to protect each other’s health, welfare and human rights. It means that as a community we will not succumb to messages of intolerance and hate. I am proud to have a leader that stands with the many other mayors who are standing up to Trump.
10. Strong Woman, Strong Leader
Mayor Hodges is a strong woman and a fierce leader. She possesses a strong ethical core. She does not equivocate. She is not afraid of tough issues or hard work.
In a time when too many celebrate style over substance, Hodges is the real deal.
I promised more laughs than I delivered, but as I wrote this today I realized yet again how important these elections are and how the issues facing our community are going to shape our future. Above and beyond individual candidates, the decision we face is whether to tackle issues of equity head on or continue our uneasy embrace of the status quo: a business-centered community less focused on addressing the economic and achievement gaps that divide our community. We will not remain a great city for long if we choose the latter.
Mayor Hodges is not the only one to center this issue, but she is a strong incumbent who can build on her knowledge and past successes and take us further, faster.
I’m gonna end this with perhaps the most eloquent endorsement of Hodges this election season. From Insight News:
“…Hodges stands head and shoulders above the field precisely because she has emerged as her own person, free of obligation to moneyed and organizational interests.
Hodges has proven she will and can make tough decisions. And she has grown her voice and presence toward genuine compassion and empathy for every resident of our city, regardless of zip code, ethnicity, national origin gender preference or religion. Her opponents, shamefully have resorted to Trump-esque fear mongering, projecting us versus them scenarios where the voice of shared opportunity, parity, equity and justice for all ought to be resounding.”