Off Beat

Win Some, Lose More

LOCAL ADMAN BILL Hillsman has gotten a lot of mileage out of his memorable ads for Paul Wellstone's 1990 U.S. Senate bid and Jesse Ventura's 1998 gubernatorial run, and since the Ventura race, Hillsman and his irreverent style have basked in a fair amount of national media attention. But what, Off Beat mused, as we perused a Q&A with the North Woods Advertising guru in the New York Times, is his actual record over the past decade? "Honestly, I don't really know. We don't pay that much attention to win-loss records the way that the Washington guys do it," Hillsman replied when we requested an accounting. Still, he bore with us while we attempted to run 'em down. First, this year: Mike Ciresi finished a distant second to Mark Dayton in the DFL primary for U.S. Senate, and St. Paul City Council member Chris Coleman placed third in the DFL primary for the Fourth District U.S. House seat. Hillsman's also pushing Ralph Nader (a blip in the major parties' rearview mirror in the presidential campaign), Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Ed Flanagan (who's staging what Hillsman optimistically terms "a pretty uphill battle" against a 25-year veteran federal lawmaker in Vermont), and Willie Logan (an unaffiliated candidate who, Hillsman predicts, might get four to six percent of the vote in his U.S. Senate bid in Florida). In 1998 Hillsman worked with Ember Reichgott Junge, who came in third in the DFL primary for attorney general, and with Doug Johnson, who placed third in the DFL gubernatorial primary. In 1996 he won (again) with Wellstone but failed to help the Minnesota Twins get backing for a new publicly financed baseball stadium. In 1994 he was oh-for-three, as DFLers John Marty and Tony Bouza lost their respective bids for the governorship and Ann Wynia ceded the U.S. Senate race to Rod Grams. Which brings us to 1993, when he helped Sharon Sayles Belton win the Minneapolis mayoral race. By our tally, that comes to...4 wins and 11 losses--if you assume the 2000 races play to form. Sums up Hillsman: "We're usually taking on what most folks would consider to be hopeless causes." And what, we wondered, were the toughest losses to swallow? "Tony [Bouza] and Mike [Ciresi] are probably the two campaigns I feel the worst about, because in both cases I think we had the best candidate but we couldn't get them over the finish line."

Generous Is as Generous Does

ON SEPTEMBER 29, the Minneapolis City Council voted seven to five to pour another $11 million into the Nicollet Mall Target store project, bringing the total taxpayer tab for the venture to a cool $66 million. A much smaller decision, financially speaking, passed by a similar margin: Council members voted eight to five to grant a nonprofit developer's request that the city waive $17,000 in charges for the temporary removal of a row of parking meters near the Hennepin County Medical Center. The meter maneuver was necessary in order to construct East Village, a 179-unit affordable-housing project on Eighth Street South, undertaken by the Central Community Housing Trust. Why, you ask, is Off Beat trotting out these apples and oranges? Well, the latest in a long line of Target handouts (the city's bill has burgeoned more than $30 million in four years), was bound to bring out a few naysayers. But a mere 17,000 beans to grease the wheels of affordable housing? In a committee meeting the day before, CCHT project manager Gina Ciganik admitted her group had screwed up by failing to anticipate the high cost of removing the meters for seven months. ("We never see anyone parked there," she noted.) When it came time for a vote, council members Doré Mead, Barret Lane, Lisa Goodman, Sandra Colvin Roy, and Lisa McDonald gave the thumbs-down. Colvin Roy worried that letting CCHT off the hook might spur other developers to ask for similar favors, while Mead and Lane called the snafu "the developer's problem." Speaking for the narrow majority was Jim Niland, who pointed out that CCHT hadn't made a habit of coming to the council with hat in hand (the $29.5 million project called for $5 million in city funds). Pleaded Niland: "Let's support this waiver as part of our affordable-housing goals. Let's be flexible here."