"If he alienates people, it looks to me like he doesn't care all that much," Christenson says. "He is appointed rather than elected, and he doesn't feel a need to answer to constituents. He knows that this is about dirty work."
Plus, Christenson adds, Mondale may be helped in his quest by the fact that attitudes toward unchecked growth are changing. "Five years ago, we were headed toward a consciousness of nothing but gated communities," he says. "Now people see that kind of sprawl as bad. There are daily reminders on highways 169 and 62."
Perhaps most telling is the fact that Ted Mondale truly believes he can talk people who moved to the suburbs to get away from the city into making their new homes more like their old ones. Awada may not have bought the notion, he concedes, but he's positive that swelling cities can't manage explosive growth all by themselves. After all, he says, Richfield used to think it could go it alone. Edina used to think it could go it alone. Those cities regret it, and soon enough Eagan will too.
"The voice of Pat Awada is the voice of ten years ago," he says. "She says, 'We're not gonna do any affordable housing,' and we say, 'Fine, whatever.' She can do whatever she wants. It's a vote of ignorance." If he's persistent, he believes, the tide will turn in his favor.
Back at the recreation center in Minnetonka, Mondale is getting Louie's baseball team ready to take some swings in the batting cage. "You okay?" he asks a kid who runs in about ten minutes late. "All right, grab your helmet and get in the cage." The kid takes a few swings and misses, but Mondale is right there, coaching him. "Hey, you're stepping out of the batter's box," he points out. "You can't make contact if you're stepping out. Don't step out of the batter's box until you swing and get your hit."