Menu

Betsy Hodges’ Closing Argument Speech

Well, Minneapolis, here we are! We are five days away from deciding how we will together build the next generation of our city.

Now, RT Rybak has been a great Mayor. I have been proud to stand arm in arm with him in some of our toughest fights at the city: fights like pension reform. Ending youth violence. Ending homelessness. Or fiscally responsible choices that were hard to make and hard to explain but got us through the recession. I have been proud to work in the trenches with him on some of our most important work for the future: streetcars, greenspace downtown, support for small business, our creative economy. And I will be proud to join him in the work of ending our achievement gap in his new role at Generation Next. He is the right leader at the right time to take on our toughest challenge.

And there are some things I am proud that RT and I share.  He’s an independent thinker, not tied to special interests. Instead, he keeps his eye on what’s right for the city of Minneapolis no matter what. I bring that ethic with me – I say the same thing wherever I go, and as a result when I get to city hall I will be responsible to a vision, not beholden to special interests. That’s how you build a 21st century city – you invest in the public good, the common ground, and by so doing – you build a city people choose to come to.

But I am Betsy Hodges. I fill my own shoes, and many days they are heels. And when you’re a woman candidate, people have a lot of opinions about those shoes. They have a lot of opinions about how you talk and express yourself, too.

A reporter asked me the other day if I am outraged about the gaps we have between white people and people of color, especially in education. “Aren’t you angry?” he asked. “What does Betsy Hodges look like when she’s angry?”

And I said yes, of course I am outraged. It’s personal to me – when I married my husband I became a grandmother to four beautiful kids, two of whom are African American boys in the Minneapolis public schools. If you think I don’t have an abiding and passionate interest in what happens to the kids of Minneapolis, think again. That’s my heart right there.

But what does that anger and outrage look like? It looks like a woman working her tail off to set things right. I don’t spend my time shaking my fist at the sky – these hands have too much work to do.

So here’s what my fury looked like when Republican legislators tried to double down on bigotry in our constitution: I made speeches at countless house parties, yes. But I sat in rooms making cold calls to raise money for the fight. I gave money myself. I called my friend Senator Scott Dibble just to listen and remind him he was loved. I lit dropped. I phonebanked. I had hundreds of conversations. I voted. I showed up when asked, I made opportunities to make a difference and I. Did. The. Work.

And we won.

Here’s what my outrage looked like when I walked into City Hall and saw how egregiously those closed pension funds were structured for everyone, including the taxpayer. I showed up at hearing after hearing. I angered legislators, some supposedly on our own team, by bending their ear about it over and over. I read the statute. I helped pull a city team together. I stood strong in the face of the lobbyists, lawyers and middlemen who went after me – and I am still facing them down in this race as they support my principal opponent. I called into the final negotiations on my wedding day.

And we won. We got it done and we got it done right.

So when you see me hard at work, when you see me doing my homework, when you see me joining in partnership and leading the way – that’s what my outrage looks like.

It looks like progress.

That work is about people, and it’s about the people of Minneapolis. When I think about the city I don’t think about a street grid and a collection of buildings and infrastructure.  I don’t think about our future as a shiny Oz in the distance. I see people, an interconnected web of people deciding together where we will take ourselves.

You know, when I started this campaign I believed I knew the full promise of this City.  But I didn’t. I didn’t. It wasn’t until I spent the last eleven months in every corner of the city that my eyes were made more able to see what is here.

I have worn hijab, and it changed me.

I have run and danced my way through the gay pride parade.

I stood on the 23rd story of the Wells Fargo building talking about the future of downtown Minneapolis while looking out across the city

I have eaten the best turkey pastrami sandwich in town at Avenue Eatery on West Broadway.

I have stood with one of our leading urban agriculturalists and heard him say “I am Russ Henry and this is my compost pile.”

I’ve been on the Tom Barnard and Don Shelby show, and I have seen Don Shelby swear.

I’ve been shopping at the Karmel Mall and seen business boom before Eid.

I’ve been invited into countless homes to share my story and vision for the city of Minneapolis.

I line danced at the Waite Park festival.

I have led prayer in an African American Baptist Church.

I did Karaoke at the Vegas Lounge with some of my opponents – and I did a mic drop.

I ran parts of our chains of lakes on countless cool mornings; I saw a blue heron quietly come down and land in the water.

I’ve been to so many forums with my opponents that I know when they have gotten their hair cut.

I rubbed elbows with a movie star who turns out is just a guy from South High.

I chaired budget hearings and voted on streetcars.

I toured the Little Earth Community Garden.

I called lots of strangers and asked them for money.

I celebrated in tears winning the right to marry for everyone in Minnesota, and I watched my friends be the first to get married under the new law.

I sat in a church basement and, translated into Spanish, promised to meet with community leaders within the first 60 days I am Mayor.

What I learned from that is nothing different than what you would think. But I also learned that it isn’t profound until it happens to you.

We really are one Minneapolis.  We really are a city made great by its people.  Freed from the restriction of obligation to a few creates a city that’s greater than those few can conceive of.  Separating us one from another does nothing but reduce us all.

We are not one Minneapolis when American Indian kids have a 25% graduation rate.

We are one Minneapolis when we all put our shoulders the wheel to create the best schools for them.

We are not one Minneapolis when our boys are killing each other.

We are one Minneapolis when we have a youth violence prevention plan, and when we as a community surround our kids with opportunity and expectations.

We are not one Minneapolis when African American people have an asthma rate so much higher than white people’s.

We are one Minneapolis when we say no to more burning at the garbage burner.

We are not one Minneapolis when Latino and Somali people don’t call the police because they are afraid of reprisals about their immigrations status.

We are one Minneapolis when we know that all our safety depends on everyone knowing they can safely call 911.

We are not one Minneapolis when a select few make decisions in back rooms for their own profit, with no input from residents or community, like they did in the 90s.

We are one Minneapolis when we grow our democracy and create spaces for new leaders and new communities to emerge and take charge.

We are not one Minneapolis when a candidate for mayor says one thing to one group and an opposite thing to another, hoping that we won’t notice the difference.

We are one Minneapolis when a candidate for mayor say the same thing openly and honestly to every room and every community.

We are not one Minneapolis when the candidate for mayor with the biggest war chest and the most money from big donors tries to buy his way into the mayor’s office.

We are one Minneapolis when real people — from

-       North, Northeast, Downtown, South, Southeast

-       gay, bi, straight, trans

-       young, middle-aged, old

-       abled, differently abled

-       white, black, brown

— from every corner and community of our city put the candidate with the most grassroots support in the mayor’s office, then make sure that she is transparent and accountable to our entire city.

So this is the moment, Minneapolis. This is the time. This is when we come together as a community and decide who we are as a people. Do we choose the new way? Do we take on our toughest challenge, knowing it will lead to our brightest future? Do we choose one Minneapolis? Or do we choose the old way, the inside baseball way, the way about special deals and old boys network and who you know? The way of corporate subsidies, and lip service to communities of color?

That isn’t just a question of how much money we spend, it isn’t just a question of whether the garbage will be picked up or whether or not we do a light rail line.  It’s a question of whether or not every heart’s wishes are part of what we create together and every mind’s intelligence is used to create it.

Even hobbled by division, hobbled by the gaps in the haves and have nots, we have done great things in our city.  But it is time to free ourselves from the fear that keeps us locked into patterns of inequality so that we can be the City of our greatest promise.

We must stop creating separate worlds inside the same City.  Because once you have celebrated Mexican Independence Day, once you have eaten roast corn at your ninth neighborhood festival, once you have shaken a thousand hands in a dozen parades you know in your bones that this City is not meant to be separate worlds.  That this City is not meant to be built for an elite few.  Because it is being built by everyone, all of us, every day.

Right now get to elect a Mayor. We get to elect a leader, a mayor, who walks her talk, who puts in the hard work, and who gets it done. We get to elect a leader who sees the full promise of this city and the full potential of everyone in it. A leader who is committed and to a city government that reflects all of us. We get to elect a Mayor who sees the biggest picture of our city and asks us to think a little bigger yet.

This moment in time is an invitation to dream as big as possible about our future together as a city. Let’s dream big.

I am that leader, I will be that Mayor, and I ask for your first choice vote on Tuesday.