19 July 2006

Mayor's Mouth Way Ahead of His Sensibility

Put a few beers in someone, and the real person comes out. Or some pot. Or an espresso with a depth charge. Or anything else that trips up one's facade and betrays the carefully crafted public image.

Take the new mayor here in Saint Paul. He simultaneously courts and woos the fringe of 'progressive' society (you know, the folks that oppose all progress) all while appearing to be the wise old man on the mountain/head of state. Sometimes he's Al Franken, sometimes he's (appearing to be) Barry Goldwater.

Mr. Mayor Man doesn't need the beer or pot. What trips up his forged exterior is the chance to get his quip out there. His handlers have sold him on the power of the sound bite, and in his zeal to get the zinger out there, he drops his guard, and the real lefty kook comes out.

This is something I've been trying to quantify and capsulize since the election. Dave Downing has captured this phenomena and provides an excellent example:

As part of St. Paul's observance of the anniversary this week, an actor portraying the "Empire Builder" (James J. Hill) will disembark from a riverboat Friday afternoon in downtown St. Paul, and will be greeted by mayor Coleman. I wonder what kind of greeting the mayor will give him? I ask, because I remember the harsh words mayor Coleman had for Hill just a few months ago.

The Hasbro company was doing a publicity stunt for its Monopoly board game, asking people to vote for properties around the country that could be included on an updated version of the game board. Real estate candidates from the Twin Cities included the Mall of America, the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis (built by Hill for the Great Northern), and St. Paul's Summit Avenue, anchored by the Hill mansion, now a historic site.

Told that the monster mall was leading the voting, the Pioneer Press quoted mayor Coleman as saying, "Summit's getting its ass kicked in the contest, but there's no question that that should be the symbol. It's the symbol of monopoly. It was the home of J.J. Hill, one of the biggest robber barons of all time."

This is a great opportunity for illustrating the current conditions in St. Paul. I think Coleman's "robber baron" comment reveals his true beliefs. He and his administration have an anti-business bias. Hill was successful and became wealthy. That's a bad thing to Democrats of Coleman's persuasion. Of course Coleman doesn't like Hill. Coleman probably thinks St. Paul would be better off if Hill had never come here, or had remained a poorly-paid clerk.

Anyway, I've noticed that our new mayor gets too full of himself, and is too quick to make what he thinks are witty, biting remarks. He needs to learn to hold his tongue, instead of trying to get in a verbal jab whenever he can.
Sure, this "robber baron" jive plays to the granola kooks that got him elected, but it's not at all an accurate portrayal of Hill. Hill came to Saint Paul with nothing and built a very successful railroad. He created jobs and prosperity for thousands of people. His infrastructure legacy survives today, and Hill hardly "raped the land" or "screwed the proletariat" in the process. He does not belong to the oft-villianized club populated by Astor, Rockefeller, Duke and Vanderbilt.

But don't let that inconvenient truth get in the way of Mayor Zinger. His ill-informed (i.e. dopey) comments betray his public image and reveal to the city what he really is - classless.

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