Imagine the scenario: Then-Police Chief Janeé Harteau was gone for four nights following the shooting death of a south Minneapolis woman by one of her officers, finally returning to Minneapolis from the outback of Telluride, Colo. Earlier that morning, before Harteau arrived, Mayor Betsy Hodges' plane left the tarmac at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport bound for her fundraiser at the Wilshire Country Club in Hollywood.
Critics of Harteau, including political challengers to Mayor Hodges and City Council members, howled in protest over the missing chief on the Wednesday following the shooting, apparently unaware that the mayor herself was heading out of town.
A cynic might contend that there was actually a seamless transfer of incompetent leadership that day.
Fortunately for the mayor, I am not a cynic. Try as I might to work up some indignation over the missing Hodges, I'm just not feeling it.
It does help explain, however, why Hodges told a Star Tribune reporter that she was not concerned about the missing chief on that Tuesday, the day before the mayor herself left. Upon returning from California, and after Council Members Linea Palmisano and Jacob Frey called for Harteau to resign, Hodges did the same. In doing so, she avoided mention of the chief's trip.
"As far as we have come, I've lost confidence in the chief's ability to lead us further — and from the many conversations I've had with people around our city, especially this week, it is clear that she has lost the confidence of the people of Minneapolis as well," Hodges said.
Several people told me at the time that things were running smoothly under Medaria Arradondo, now the chief. I still thought Harteau should have been here in the days after the shooting. I'm less concerned about the mayor, though she technically oversees the department. Hodges acknowledged her trip this week on Facebook, but only after reporters began calling about it.
First, let me say this: You people lead lives that you only read about in Town & Country Magazine.
Harteau went off to tony Telluride and Hodges to L.A. The mayor's fundraiser was at the Wilshire Country Club, where one can see the Hollywood sign from several golf holes, if one can afford the $70,000 membership fee. One could also spot such stars as Halle Berry and Mark Wahlberg, as well as the "area's most distinguished business leaders and citizens."
Just don't wear a mock turtleneck to the club. They're banned.
"Shirts must be tucked in at all times," according to the club's dress code. "Denim is permitted on any day in the Macbeth Bar, Outside Patio, Grill Room and Locker Room areas, unless specifically stated for a Club event. The denim must be free from holes and tears and be in good condition."
There is no mention of flannel shirts, but I'm pretty sure they'd be frowned upon.
I loathe the role money plays in elections, but I actually don't begrudge Hodges going to Los Angeles to raise cash. Politicians go to rich people for the same reason bank robbers go to banks: It's where the money is. We, the voters, have allowed politicians to create a system where gigs like this are mandatory. Shame on us.
Tom Hoch, who is challenging Hodges, may be more on the mark with his criticism that Hodges' excuses for not completing the 2018 budget on time (she blamed the shooting and explosion at Minnehaha Academy) look lame on the heels of a fundraising trip.
"Though it is true that Minneapolis has seen a challenging few weeks, this is no excuse for the mayor to fail to perform her responsibilities under the city charter," Hoch said. "It's even less justifiable when the mayor chooses to maintain a robust campaign schedule, including an apparent fundraising event in California, when she should have been compiling the city budget."
Hodges gave her opponents material in a week in which Frey took a hit when some downtown business owners publicly questioned his commitment to them. "There's no daylight between Jacob and Betsy right now," said Steve Minn, a developer who had tempered his support for Frey.
If that's true, Hodges better hope the race doesn't come down to a main blunder on her trip, the one place I'm really going to take a firm stand: the menu. It's an abomination.
Politicians, particularly liberals, take pains to show they're just like us regular folks by eating what said folks eat. The beans and weenie picnics are the stuff of political legend and mockery.
But the Hodges fundraiser featured "kombucha tasting with Garrison Keillor," which sounds like something that would happen in Lake Wobegon, if there were a Lake Wobegon in hell. I bought a bottle of kombucha for research. It tastes like damp socks in a dive bar at midnight.
The event said that lefse and kale wraps and "an artisan-crafted hot dish featuring organic, locally sourced tofu are just a few things that could bring people from Minneapolis and Los Angeles together."
Or, more likely, rip them irrevocably apart.
Maybe I'm just jealous. I have occasionally poked fun at the mayor's speeches and her liberal use of poetic license. Several people said it sounded like I wrote the invitation as satire. I'm flattered, but I'm not nearly that creative. It just goes to show you really can't make this stuff up.
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