The winter of Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges' discontent turned a few shades of gray darker last week.
According to 2015 campaign finance reports, the city's top political exec ended 2015 in the red. Hodges has only $11,500 on hand, raising more than $46,000 last year, and still owes $21,500 she loaned herself during her successful 2013 mayoral run.
Contrast her fundraising fortunes with some of the City of Lakes' other political players. Council member Abdi Warsame, who represents neighborhoods including Seward and Cedar Riverside, boasts almost $50,000 on hand. Ward 10 rep Lisa Bender's war chest pushes $40,000. Media darling Jacob Frey, whose district includes downtown and the Mississippi River waterfront, claims the top spot, banking more than $100,000.
Hodges' cash flow woes in isolation aren't cause for alarm yet. There's still 20 months before the next mayoral election in November 2017. However, the recent disclosure has folks whispering whether it speaks to larger problems lurking just beneath the surface.
The mayor's job performance in 2015 was hardly the stuff of civic prowess. Hodges, who had voted against the Minnesota Vikings stadium deal as a councilwoman, played a starring role in chasing professional soccer all the way to St. Paul. That city met the team owner's request for a mild city subsidy package. In Minneapolis, Hodges had never backed off her threat of veto.
Hodges' encore was tackling the Working Families Agenda. The mayor championed the initiative in its nascent stages. The pro-labor plan included requiring a 28-day advance work schedule, paid sick leave, and a $15 wage. But the scheduling initiative got dropped and the $15 minimum wage was put off while the city awaits results of a $175,000 study commissioned by the council.
Hodges fractured her base of progressive supporters by appearing to cave to business interests, while at the same time she angered parts of the business community by sticking with the pared-down agenda.
Early December saw Hodges' biggest blunder. As aftershocks of the Jamar Clark shooting at the hands of Minneapolis police continued to be felt in the city, the mayor attempted to slide in a $600,000-plus last-minute amendment that would've paid for fortifying the North Side's 4th precinct.
Opponents of the proposal filled the City Hall chambers, ultimately forcing Hodges to abandon the measure.
Among the citizens who spoke that night was Nicque Mabrey, a progressive organizer with Neighborhoods Organizing for Change. She addressed the fallout when police forced demonstrators to disband outside the police station.
"Betsy," she began, "you sat on my couch, and you promised me a vision of equity.… Pepper spray and billy clubs in our ribs? You lied."
Hodges might also be losing support she needs inside city hall. Several council members, who would only speak privately about the matter, say she rules by edict, not communication. They maintain Hodges operates as an island, working closely with her 16-member staff instead of the 13-member council.
Case in point: the Commons Park, the 4.2-acre green space adjacent the new Vikings stadium. Hodges' staff phoned panel members telling them to not voice any public resistance to the park, despite unaddressed concerns that could still cost Minneapolis taxpayers with an unfunded mandate to pay for the project.
Some political insiders already believe there's blood in the water. Whether a shaky political base and an anemic bank account are enough to entice a fellow Democrat to challenge Hodges remains to be seen.
An unsuccessful challenge would be political suicide. On the flip side, toppling a weakened mayor is the kind of move that makes a career.
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