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BEST POLITICIAN

Neva Walker

Most politicians don't know when to exit the stage. They've spent so much time in front of fawning crowds that they lose all perspective on their place in the political universe. Hence you get delusional jackasses like Rod Grams running for office long after their political viability has wilted. Or the spectacle of Sen. Larry Craig engaging in a fruitless attempt to convince the public that he wasn't seeking sexual gratification in a bathroom stall at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. That's why Rep. Neva Walker's announcement that she would not be seeking re-election was such a refreshing political curveball. The south Minneapolis legislator certainly could have logged as many terms as she wished in the overwhelmingly Democratic district. Even as we admire Walker's willingness to walk away from the political spotlight, her perspective at the state Capitol will be sorely missed. She is the only African American woman ever to be elected to the state Legislature in Minnesota. This embarrassing truth is compounded by the fact that when she leaves office there won't be a single black legislator—male or female—in the state. But Walker will also be missed for reasons larger than race. Throughout her four terms she was a champion of causes that don't often attract the klieg lights. Walker fought for the reinstatement of an ombudsman for the state's prisons, lobbied for comprehensive sex education in schools, and sought greater funding for AIDS prevention programs. "It just felt like the right time," she says of the decision to step down. It's a fitting capstone to a laudable career in public service.

BEST (NON-TV) WEATHERPERSON Jimmy "Dutch" Gaines

BEST AMUSEMENT PARK Valleyfair

BEST BEACH Hidden Beach at Cedar Lake

BEST BIKE TRAIL Cannon Valley Trail

BEST BOCCE COURTS Nomad World Pub

BEST BOWLING ALLEY Ran-Ham Bowling Center

BEST BOXER Jason Litzau

BEST COACH Tubby Smith

BEST COLUMNIST Nick Coleman

BEST COMIC BOOK SHOP Big Brain Comics

BEST DAY TRIP Stillwater

BEST FAN CONVENTION CONvergence

BEST GAY-FRIENDLY SPORTS LEAGUE Twin Cities Gay Hockey Association

BEST GOLF COURSE Hiawatha Golf Club

BEST ICE SKATING Centennial Lakes Park

BEST INDOOR RUNNING SPACE Metrodome

BEST JOCKEY Paul Nolan

BEST LIBRARY Minneapolis Central Library

BEST LOCAL BLOG Mediation

BEST LOCAL BOY GONE BAD Alex Pareene

BEST LOCAL BOYS MADE GOOD Joel and Ethan Coen

BEST LOCAL GIRL MADE GOOD Diablo Cody

BEST LOCAL WEBSITE MnSpeak

BEST LYNX PLAYER Seimone Augustus

BEST MAKE-OUT POINT Fillmore Avenue, St. Paul

BEST MAYOR R.T. Rybak

BEST MINNESOTA SWARM PLAYER Nick Patterson

BEST MINNESOTA THUNDER PLAYER Nic Platter

BEST NATURE IN THE CITY The Quaking Bog at Wirth Park

BEST NEIGHBORHOOD FOR GARAGE SALES Macalester-Groveland

BEST NEW BRIDGE Hiawatha Bridge

BEST NEW VIEW OF THE RIVERFRONT Guthrie Theater's "Endless Bridge"

BEST PARKING LOT The one behind the Mixed Blood Theatre on the West Bank

BEST PICNIC SPOT Hidden Falls Regional Park

BEST PLACE FOR A FIRST DATE Lake Elmo Park Reserve

BEST PLACE TO ACCESSORIZE YOUR SCANDO HERITAGE Ingebretsen's

BEST PLACE TO BREAK UP Science Museum of Minnesota

BEST PLACE TO GET A PIñATA Litin Everything Party 'n' Paper

BEST PLACE TO GET ARRESTED FOR SOLICITING SEX IN PUBLIC Crosby Farm Regional Park

BEST PLACE TO GET AWAY FROM IT ALL WITHOUT LEAVING TOWN Canoeing on Lake Nokomis

BEST PLACE TO JOG Crosby Farm Regional Park

BEST PLACE TO MEET OTHER PARENTS Riverview Café

BEST PLACE TO MEET SINGLE MEN (GAY) The Minneapolis Eagle/Bolt

BEST PLACE TO MEET SINGLE MEN (STRAIGHT) Dave and Buster's

BEST PLACE TO MEET SINGLE WOMEN (GAY) Pi Bar and Restaurant

BEST PLACE TO MEET SINGLE WOMEN (STRAIGHT) Bolder Options

BEST PLACE TO PEOPLE-WATCH Pizza Lucé downtown after 1 a.m. on a Saturday night

BEST PLACE TO PLAY GAMES OF WORLD DOMINATION WHILE EATING SEASONED FRIES Chatterbox Pub

BEST PLACE TO SAY IT WITH A CARD Mitrebox

BEST PLACE TO SHOOT POOL Fat Boy Billiards

BEST PLACE TO SPEND A DAY DOING SOMETHING FOR FREE Como Park

BEST PLACE TO STUDY WHILE SIPPING BEER Common Roots Cafe

BEST PLACE TO TAKE OUT-OF-TOWN GUESTS Stone Arch Bridge

BEST PLACE TO WANDER INDOORS Marjorie McNeely Conservatory

BEST PUBLIC PARK Lebanon Hills Regional Park

BEST SCANDAL Carol Molnau's shameless land deal

BEST SELF-PROMOTER Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek

BEST SIGN OF SPRING Outdoor dining

BEST SILVER LINING TO THE 35W BRIDGE COLLAPSE Four lanes on 94

BEST SKYSCRAPER The Capella Tower

BEST SLEDDING Theodore Wirth Park

BEST SPEED TRAP The bridges over the Mississippi near 35W

BEST SPORTS BAR FOR CHEERING OUT-OF-STATE TEAMS Gabe's by the Park

BEST STRIP CLUB The Seville

BEST TENNIS COURTS Tower Hill courts

BEST TIMBERWOLVES PLAYER Al Jefferson

BEST TWINS PLAYER Joe Mauer

BEST USE OF NEON LIGHTING First National Bank Building

BEST USE OF TAXPAYER MONEY Land conservation grants

BEST VIEW Lake Hiawatha at sunset on an autumn day

BEST VIKINGS PLAYER Adrian Peterson

BEST VILLAIN Par Ridder

BEST WAY TO EXPERIENCE THE TWIN CITIES WITHOUT ENDURING THE WEATHER Twin Cities Flickr Photo Pool

BEST WEEKEND GETAWAY The North Shore

BEST WILD PLAYER Marian Gaborik

BEST WINTER SPORTS RESORT Lutsen Mountains

BEST YOGA St. Paul Yoga Center