Be happy with mediocrity

Doug Grow writes in the Star and Sickle: This grab for mediocrity isn’t unique to the marathon. I got my first unapologetic introduction to it a year ago in a conversation with Dan McElroy, who was then the finance guru for Gov. Tim Pawlenty and now is the governor’s chief of staff. We were talking about the state’s financial cuts to cities, including Minneapolis. “Your spending is not stupidly high,” McElroy said of Minneapolis financial management. “But it’s at or above the levels being spent per capita in comparable Midwest cities.” The cities McElroy found “comparable” to Minneapolis? Des Moines, Omaha, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Kansas City, Indianapolis and — gasp — Toledo. Fine places all, but not exactly the world-class spots Minneapolis and the rest of Minnesota once aspired to be.

Please. Minneapolis will be lucky if it manages to hang onto mediocrity in the next 20 years. It’s got the classic insecurity of a city that knows it’s second-tier, but without the wisdom to accept the fact and deal with it. One thing that Space Bunny loves about the Premiership is watching the teams get relegated and promoted; one common theme is a second-rate team with delusions of grandeur goes into debt by overspending in the hopes that it will finish in the top four. The idea is that it will make so much money from its success and a subsequent infusion of Champion’s League cash that it will be propelled into the league’s elite with Arsenal and United. This never works, of course, and after a run of two years, the team usually collapses and is relegated to the Nationwide league, where it struggles to avoid bankruptcy and liquidation.

How do I know Minneapolis is second-rate? Because neither it nor St. Paul has any confidence to recognize its home-grown talent until it is established as being considered worthwhile by the national media. My old band did not rate so much as a mention in the local alternative rags, much less the major newspapers, until Billboard magazine was writing about us. Then, suddenly, we were big enough to rate the front page of the Entertainment section. The same thing happened to Information Society, who weren’t even recognized as local until Kurt had already left for the Bay Area. The book editors will write reams of reviews about books by obscure local press writers instead of the successful local genre writers selling 50x more books- accomplished, award-winning writers such as Rosenberg, Bujold, Dickson, Bethke, Brust, Wrede, (and to a lesser extent, me). Furthermore, if I recall correctly, I am only the sixth writer in the history of the St. Paul Pioneer Press to ever get nationally syndicated, and yet they don’t run my column. Instead, they fill their pages with unknown locals and the rehashed leftovers of the Boston Globe and New York Times. I have no doubt they’ll pick it up once I’m in ten major newspapers and then brag about the local connection.

The danger Minneapolis faces is not toiling amidst second-tierdom, but spending itself into ruin by trying to transform itself into something it can never be. I’m not optimistic. A three-day business piece in the Pioneer Press lamenting the fact that Minnesota had missed the dot com boom didn’t see fit to once mention that the state has very high income taxes. “But so does California,” protested an editor when I called them on this. Sure, and California also has Stanford, Caltech, Silicon Valley, silicone blondes and beaches. Minnesota has freezing cold winters, mosquitos and natural blondes. Do the freaking math.