Off Beat

Council to Sayles Belton: The Nerve!

MINNEAPOLIS CITY COUNCIL members were still howling last week over mayor Sharon Sayles Belton's Planning Commission appointment of Julie Idelkope, a former mayoral aide-turned-Northwest Airlines lobbyist (see "As the Door Revolves," November 17). On Tuesday the council's Zoning and Planning Committee gave Idelkope the big raspberry in the form of a 5-0 vote recommending that she not be appointed. Given that the seat is a mayoral designee, though, Sayles Belton isn't required to entertain second opinions. So the full council voted 9-4 Friday to simply hold its collective nose, in the form of a toothless resolution finding the appointment "objectionable." The Northwest issue aside, many are troubled that Sayles Belton passed over the original five applicants for the seat to appoint a former staffer. (All five were interviewed by the mayor's senior policy aide Vernon Wetternach before Idelkope was tapped.) Among the rankled is Seventh Ward council member Lisa Goodman, who fumes, "This is a problem that didn't need to be a problem, because there were a number of qualified candidates. Why did they ask people to apply if they knew who they wanted all along?" Responds mayoral spokeswoman Ann Freeman: "While those applications were being reviewed, the mayor's office learned that Julie Idelkope was interested in the position. It wasn't like she was always going to appoint Julie--that's not how it happened." One of the overlooked applicants takes another view. "It was a sorry process," says Suzanne Zorn, former head of the Committee on the Urban Environment's urban design team and founder of the Hennepin Avenue Task Force. "I kept thinking I'd get a phone call through June, July even." Zorn and Augsburg College professor and Phillips neighborhood activist Michael O'Neal were the only candidates who met the original February application deadline (a second deadline yielded the other three applications). "I would say the open-appointments process needs to be improved. You know there's other smart people in town besides Julie Idelkope."

Gut Check

HANGING OUT DOWNTOWN after Monday night's Packers-Vikings tilt, Off Beat couldn't help but notice that, physically speaking, it has become increasingly difficult to differentiate between Cheese Heads and fans of the Purple. Beefy men and women, stuffed horns askew, were jiggling from bar to bar. A lot of the guys were even sporting hunter's beards (a common ploy among 'Sconi woodsmen hoping to camouflage a jowl or three). So you can imagine how tickled we were to find that in its January cover story "Fittest Cities in America," Men's Fitness magazine has ranked Minneapolis second only to San Diego. The Twin Cities didn't fare well in the climate category (duh), or in junk food (those corn dogs'll get ya an F every time, yessiree). But we copped A's in healthcare, availability of gyms, lack of obesity, and TV-watching habits. To our befuddlement, we also rated a B in alcohol consumption. Apparently the magazine's number crunchers were wandering the Warehouse District after a Twins game.

Let the Backroom Dealing Begin

THE BROUHAHA OVER building a Twins stadium in St. Paul ended last month, but F.A.N.S. for St. Paul (that's Fiscal Accountability for New Stadiums, acronym buffs) isn't resting on its laurels. At a $20-a-head fundraiser at the New Louisiana Café last Tuesday, the group pulled in enough money to retire its existing debt (about $1,700). F.A.N.S. founder and St. Paul attorney Tom Montgomery says his bunch spent "a little over $3,000" to battle the Norm Coleman-backed stadium effort and its $640,000 (which included a $100,000 assist from the Minnesota Twins). Montgomery says the group is transforming itself into F.A.N.S. for Minnesota in anticipation of the next proposal for a publicly funded park. To that end, F.A.N.S. has secured the domain name, which he hopes will be up and running to replace the current before the February 1 opening of the legislative session. "I think the Web site is just one of the pieces we have to keep in place to keep the pressure on these major-league franchises," says Montgomery, who's sure the backroom discussions for the next field of schemes are already under way. "I can hear the little kids saying, 'Say it ain't so, Tom,' but I think it is. They vowed that they'll be back and I know they'll be back, because the alternative would be building it with private money. And they're like junkies--they don't want to do that."

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