Image by Tony Webster

Swaggerapolis: is it what we really need?

“The mayor’s job is to set the tone and to set the vision. We need to regain our citywide swagger.” Jacob Frey (Star Tribune profile, October 10, 2017.)

Is swagger really what our city needs? It seems macho and a bit cocky and yes, I think you are catching my drift…..

Just for kicks I looked up swagger in Merriam Webster’s online dictionary:

swagger: verb: to walk or behave in a very confident and typically arrogant or aggressive way.

Synonyms for swagger include bluster, gloat, boast, brag, grandstand and put on airs.

Mr. Frey believes in swagger. He hopes we will vote for him and his vision of a swaggering Minneapolis. He also uses the word “regain” in a way that reminds me of Donald Trump’s savvy use of the word “again” in his MAGA campaign theme: that we need to return to some better time. What does Mr. Frey mean by this?

Mr. Frey says Minneapolis is just a “pretty good” city. I think we are a pretty great city, with the enormous exception of racial inequity — where we still have plenty of work to do. I and many others believe it’s the most important work of the coming decade. Thankfully we have both a highly committed mayor and a whole lot of citizens who are dedicated to advancing an equity agenda. As Paul Wellstone said, “We all do better when we all do better.”

I love my city. I’m passionate about it, and that’s why I care a whole lot about who becomes our next mayor. So I’ve been taking a close look at Mr. Frey and the other candidates as I ponder my top 3 for ranked choice voting. Today StarTribune City Hall reporter Adam Belz profiled Mr. Frey, and his swagger comment got me thinking more about him and what he would bring to the mayor’s office.

There is a lot of back and forth rhetoric coming from Mr. Frey these days. He’s often accused of trying to play both sides of complicated issues, like policing. His equivocation on this was evidenced in the StarTribune Oct 5, 2017 article in which downtown groups criticized candidate responses to a Pollen/Rhymesayers survey. Also, in a recent MSP Magazine article, author Adam Platt door knocked with Mr. Frey and wrote, “He tells a resident who identifies as Republican that he worked to temper the $15 wage ordinance, while telling a social justice-minded neighbor that he was an early supporter of it.”

In the Belz profile Mr. Frey states that the Minnesota United soccer stadium was lost to St. Paul because the Minneapolis mayor’s office never sought it. This is not accurate and Frey knows it. The MN United owners group demanded an unprecedented 100% property tax exemption in perpetuity for their proposed stadium. Mayor Hodges said no. The owners group was furious, but who’s more important: citizens who depend on tax revenue for necessary public services or billionaire team owners? Hodges did the right thing defending our interests. I’m disappointed that Mr. Belz did not correct him on this, or at least mention this important distinction in the profile.

According to Belz, “the essence of Frey’s pitch is his professed willingness to use the mayor’s bully pulpit “for extraordinary things” in Minneapolis, including promoting business investment to fuel job growth.”

Again, Mr. Frey is well aware that Mayor Hodges is consistently doing this — and very, very successfully. Minneapolis has more jobs and has seen $1 billion in investment every year that Hodges has been mayor.

Equivocation may get you votes but it’s not leadership. Telling half-truths about the issues does not inspire confidence and repackaging the ideas of the incumbent you hope to replace is not visionary.

Minneapolis doesn’t need swagger. Swagger is superficial. Swagger is an empty suit. Minneapolis needs substance, strength, and unwavering commitment to a city that will not just grow and prosper, but will embed Wellstone’s vision of our collective betterment in all its endeavors.

As I was finishing up this article I hopped on Wikipedia and discovered: “Swaggering is an ostentatious style of walking affected by men wishing to assert their dominance.”

How apt.

I support Mayor Betsy Hodges for re-election. She will be my #1 pick, while Mr. Frey will not be in my top 3.

Camille J. Gage is a Minneapolis based artist and writer.