It had to happen sooner or later. Nearly three years ago, more than half of the Minneapolis City Council--and the mayor's office--was repopulated by newcomers. A new era of energy and ideas was proclaimed. But in numerous cases, the tides of change simply left these political novices all wet. Somebody had to bail first.
That distinction now belongs to Dan Niziolek, the 10th Ward council rep, who quietly peeped recently that he would not seek reelection next year. One might wonder if this strikes a blow against grassroots visionaries hoping to overhaul city government. But since he's graced the council chambers, Niziolek has appeared strikingly ineffective: There's no one on the current council so adept at staying off point.
The 10th Ward, which currently includes Uptown, Lyn-Lake, the lapping eastern shore of Lake Calhoun, and the Rockwellian confines of the Kingfield neighborhood, is hardly a political powder keg. Lisa McDonald, Niziolek's predecessor, parlayed her biz-friendly gentrification successes in the ward into a reasonable mayoral run. But Niziolek managed to find rough waters right away. His first maneuver was to seek a new street-light project in the Lyndale neighborhood that could have cost some homeowners $1,000 or more in assessments. Problem was, nobody wanted it. After an attempt to collect petition signatures to push the measure through, the issue faded away.
Niziolek, a former CCP/Safe officer, always fancied himself a law-and-order type and still heads the Public Safety and Regulatory Services Committee. But he soon turned into a one-note Johnny, joining the ranks of those who couldn't get past the fact that new Police Chief William McManus was chosen over two internal candidates, most notably Deputy Chief Lucy Gerold. The suspension of Gerold by McManus over the botched Duy Ngo investigation made Niziolek oddly apoplectic.
Finally, Niziolek was notable for his patronizing ramblings toward his colleagues, frequently reducing them to utter confusion during policy sessions. One particularly heated Niziolek argument moved 12th Ward council member Sandy Colvin Roy to congratulate Dizzy Nizzy for being the only person she knew who talked faster than former council member--and longtime coffee achiever--Jim Niland.
Politics isn't for everybody. It often goes unremarked that being a Minneapolis City Council member is hard work--the committee meetings alone add up to a full-time job--and Niziolek understandably says he wants more time with his family, which now includes twins born just after he won office. (The only confirmed candidate for the newly redistricted 10th Ward is Allan Bernard, a former aide to McDonald who currently serves Second Ward leader Paul Zerby. Bernard knows the inner workings of Minneapolis government as well as anyone.)
To his credit, Niziolek claimed that he announced his decision early so that interested citizens could get a head start on plumbing their expertise in campaigning and working the crowd at City Hall. Suffice it to say that interested candidates might do better to seek advice elsewhere.
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