BEST PUBLIC BEHEADING Minneapolis 1999 -
Back in 1994, the Minneapolis City Council and Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton wooed Farmer to run the city's planning department. He was the epitome of a golden boy, bringing with him a sparkling résumé that included stints as a planning consultant in Canada, India, and Germany; teaching positions at several universities; and a 14-year term as deputy planning director in Pittsburgh, where he led the charge to redevelop 35 miles of waterfront, install busways and a light-rail transit system, and transform contaminated land into parks, businesses, and residential neighborhoods--all projects that Minneapolis shakers and movers have long been anxious to see happen here. From the start he seemed to understand the city--its material and scale, its economics, its history--with an acute intelligence, an internal eye for the big picture. He made it his business to be on hand for hundreds of neighborhood events, fighting for affordable housing, a balance of civic and green space, traffic reduction, and mass transit. He made good on his promise to lay down in print a vision for the city's heart, in the form of a comprehensive Downtown 2010 plan, which the City Council greenlighted in October of 1996. (You see this coming, don't you?) Last year the council's executive committee voted 3-2 against renewing Farmer's contract. Why? Let's just say they were looking to hire someone more, well, cooperative. Our loss is Eugene, Oregon's gain. Earlier this year Farmer assumed the post of director of planning and development there.