BEST POLITICAL EMBARRASSMENT (2001)
Sharon Sayles Belton
How, how could we possibly narrow this down to just one winner? There's simply too much to choose from. Like, for instance, the parade of sensational headlines generated by former Ramsey County Commissioner Dino Guerin, who admitted to having a gambling addiction and to passing $35,500 in bad checks; was forced to resign his seat on the county board; filed for bankruptcy (for the second time!); and yet somehow managed the chutzpah to run a futile campaign to recapture his elected post. Or the speculation and innuendo that swirled about former Sen. Rod Grams when it turned out that his chief aide (and future wife) had circulated an e-mail launching nasty allegations about a foe. Or the October announcement that Steven Bosacker, Gov. Jesse Ventura's chief of staff, had been arrested at a Minneapolis health club where he was allegedly masturbating in the men's steam room. Or, for that matter, any of a number of headline-generating stunts perpetrated by the governor himself (see elsewhere in this section). Still, when we'd gone all the way down memory lane, what stuck in our minds the most was the sight of Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton helping to steer a backhoe into a 16-foot purple, wooden E, breaking ground for construction of yet another shopping-dining-entertainment complex that's going to save downtown. In the 15 years since the city razed Moby Dick's Bar and the adult bookstores that blighted the block, eight developers have come up with and abandoned a dozen different plans for redevelopment. Even as they clucked with concern over the dwindling number of tenants and shoppers in Block E's sister mall, City Center, and considered arrangements to refinance Gaviidae Common (on terms profitable to the developer, not Minneapolitans, of course), the various city council members who have come and gone during the drama have cast an untrackable number of votes. In the end Minneapolis taxpayers are going to be stuck with $39 million of the as yet unnamed mall's projected $134 million price tag. From dive to void to embarrassment to boondoggle to humiliation: What a journey.