Reform Party Revolt

MINNESOTA REFORM PARTY members along with their counterparts elsewhere are charging that Ross Perot is trying to run the organization like his personal toy. Last week, the Texan sponsored a teleconference at which representatives of 50 states voted to elect him, his running mate Pat Choate, and his chief adviser Russ Verney as the national steering committee of the Reform Party.


The problem, according to RP dissidents, is that there already is a national steering committee. It was elected in September at a meeting in Schaumburg, Illinois, and has asked the Federal Election Commission to recognize it as the one and only national reform party committee. At stake, among other things, is who gets to choose a presidential candidate, and collect public funding, in 2000.

Minnesota Reform Party founder Phil Madsen, who played a key role in Schaumburg, says the difference between that group and the new effort is that one seeks a "free-standing, self-governing, democratic national party organization," while the other is composed largely of hand-picked Perotistas. Noting that he's not speaking for the state party, Madsen says Minnesota has had one of the best-organized Reform Parties nationally (there are some 5,000 active members, and 12 percent of the state electorate voted for RP candidates in November), but that it developed independent from the floppy-eared billionaire. With polls indicating that as many as 7 out of 10 Minnesotans hold a negative opinion of Perot, Madsen says, "the likelihood that a majority of Reform Party members [here] will want us to become dependent on Dallas is slim."

URBAN VENTURES, THE non-profit foundation with big plans for Lake Street redevelopment, is headed back to the drawing board. At a recent Central Neighborhood Improvement Association meeting, board members rejected the organization's "Opportunity Zone" plan. According to CNIA members, the proposal, which includes a hotel and a sports/cultural center, was a little too good to be true. "It's unrealistic. Although we need jobs in the neighborhood, they've overestimated the number of jobs the Op Zone would create," says board member David Piehl.

RUMORS THAT SHARON Sayles Belton is looking for a job in the Clinton administration--and they certainly do have some openings--got a little boost from the departure of mayoral speechwriter and spokesperson Mary Pattock. She's taking a job as communications director for the Minneapolis Public Schools. On her last day at work, Pattock denied that the mayor is fixing to head out: "She's very committed to serving a second term. But it's a flattering rumor. I'm sure she'd like to keep it alive." In related news, Sayles Belton will have at least one challenger if she runs in '97: Former City Council member Dick "Life is Beautiful" Franson has announced his bid for mayor as a DFLer.

SEVERAL AFRICAN-AMERICAN legal and community organizations held a news conference Monday demanding that Hennepin County Chief Public Defender Bill Kennedy answer several questions regarding his office's investigation of Bill McGee, another leading candidate for the job. Among other things, they demanded to know whether Kennedy leaked damaging information about McGee to the media. They also questioned a quote, attributed to an unnamed source in the Star Tribune, that Kennedy's office had investigated McGee's involvement with "a group of black lawyers" dealing drugs. "We want to know exactly who said that and where the corroborating evidence is," says Rosalyn Otieno, vice president of the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers. Otieno says her group and others are also concerned that poor and minority defendants could lose confidence in the public defender's office as a result of the controversy.

DAYTON/HUDSON IS among the targets of please from tenants in Minneapolis's Physicians and Surgeons Building to save the historic structure. Some 200 people who work in the building, which is occupied mostly by small businesses, have signed a petition urging authorities to reconsider a plan to raze the block for a new Target store and corporate center. "We are... supporters of our city and entrepreneurs who have worked hard to make it without tax increment financing or other large tax breaks," it says. "A comparable location with comparable rent does not exist." The tenants note that downtown is full of vacant, developable sites including the one once occupied by the Powers department store. But developers haven't been wild about the north end of Nicollet Mall, which is considered less tony than the area around Orchestra Hall.

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