Minneapolis Downtown Council President Steve Cramer is a popular fellow. He regularly receives requests from out-of-towners who want to learn about what it takes to have a bustling urban core.
Such was the case in January.
Malcolm Hamilton, a former Twin Cities resident turned first-term Odessa, Texas city councilman, requested an audience with Cramer. In tow would be Odessa City Attorney Larry Long.
The men met at Cramer's office for about 75 minutes on January 23. Cramer spoke about the City of Lakes' downtown housing boom, the renovation of Nicollet Mall, and Minneapolis' skyway system.
"What they took away from the meeting is hard for me to say," says Cramer.
The Lone Star emissaries occupied the remainder of their day scoping the downtown sights.
The meeting with Cramer and touring the city on foot represented the totality of the men's official business in Minneapolis.
Long flew back to Texas the following day. His trip to Minneapolis cost Odessa taxpayers nearly $1,500, which included two nights hotel, travel, and meals.
But Hamilton, who was supposed to return home one day after that, craved more.
He extended his stay six more days, according to a later press release, "so that I might take full advantage of the trip and expense to further tour downtown attractions as: the Hotels, Apartments, theaters, museums, a sculpture garden, restaurants ranging from food trucks to fine dining and pocket parks."
What exactly are pocket parks?
Hamilton won't say. He did not respond to repeated interview requests.
Here's what's known for certain:
According to Odessa American reporter Corey Paul, "The ostensible purpose of the 12-day trip, where Hamilton was briefly accompanied by a top city official, was to study the Minneapolis downtown."
Hamilton's trip cost Odessa taxpayers about $2,100. His expenses included plane tickets, a five-day rental car, three nights at a hotel near the Mall of America, and a charge to extend his stay an additional six days.
By choosing to catch a different return flight the following week, Hamilton cost the city an additional $310.
Public records show this isn't the first time Hamilton has demonstrated questionable financial judgment.
In 2004 the state of California sued him for almost $6,000 in back taxes. He was hit with a federal tax lien for about $5,800 in 2009. Closer to home in 2012, Willow Valley Limited Partnership filed an eviction suit against Hamilton when he was living at an apartment on 67th Ave. N. in Brooklyn Park.
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