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John Nephew

Maplewood City Council Policy & Politics



One of the things I find most interesting about this year's primary ballot is the divisions it shows among what had been the Longrie-Hjelle coalition. I guess it's not terribly surprising, as Erik Hjelle's contempt for Mayor Longrie is often apparent. Their alliance has always seemed to be one of convenience founded upon mutual enemies (such as all the people Erik went into office intending to fire, as he told the Pioneer Press way back in 2006), not mutual respect.

There seem to be more Longrie allies running in the council primary than there are spaces on the general ballot. But two former Longrie supporters -- Dave Hafner and DelRay Rokke -- are now running as a slate with a different mayoral candidate, Ken Smart. They filed rather late, and my speculation is that they're the slate that Erik supports. If Erik has contempt for Diana, his distaste for some of her supporters -- particularly the ones who filed for office relatively early -- is even stronger. (Notice that Hjelle is the sole member of the council who voted against reappointing council candidate Robert Martin to the planning commission earlier this year.)

By way of example, here's a passage from an e-mail that Erik wrote to me (dated 2/12/09, 8:33 AM, and copied to city staff) when, at the request of Environmental and Natural Resources Commission members, I had asked for the council to consider removing Frederica Musgrave from that commission. He wrote:
And let me be clear, I view this "tiff" amongst the DFL liberal/progressive/environmental nazis your guys' problem, not mine. This is what happens when you coddle and enable victims on every scale. Just because your DFL progressive environmental/greens don't get along with Diana's DFL progressive environmental/greens is NOT my problem.
(What's with Erik's gang's fascination with Nazis, anyway?)

Just like Erik promised in his e-mail, there was a frivolous lawsuit from Ms. Musgrave. When her request for a temporary injunction was denied in no uncertain terms, she dismissed her own suit shortly thereafter. A few months later, Musgrave's housemate, former parks commissioner and current council candidate Julie Binko, filed her own frivolous small claims action against the city on a different matter.

As an observer, I'm curious to see how Erik's contempt for the "victims" and "environmental nazis" in Diana's camp balances against his hatred of fellow councilmember and mayoral candidate Will Rossbach. Will Hjelle go for the trifecta, violating campaign finance/practices laws in a third consecutive municipal election cycle -- and if so, which candidates will his violations be supporting or attacking this year?

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