Goodman won't seek re-election to Minneapolis City Council

After a quarter-century in office, Minneapolis City Council Member Lisa Goodman announced Monday she won't seek re-election in November.

Goodman, 56 and the longest-serving City Council member in modern history, said a combination of factors led to her decision, including the burden of representing some 30,000 constituents.

"It's a very time consuming and stressful job — to do it well," Goodman said. "I'm the kind of of person who answers every email myself, at all hours. I carry home the stress of people who are upset about things and with me. You go at it 110%, until you can't."

News of Goodman's departure spread rapidly through the city's political circles as generations of officials and observers noted her tenure.

Mayor Jacob Frey called Goodman "an amazing friend, mentor, and servant."

In a statement on his official Facebook page, he wrote: "As any friend of Lisa's will tell you, a deep friendship does not mean you have escaped the fate of an intense argument (or two). To the contrary, her greatest show of respect is her willingness to debate with you, exchange a few strong words, and arrive at a better conclusion – one that has been enhanced by the spirited discourse."

'World changed around me'

A liberal from the era of late U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone, for whom she worked in 1990, Goodman represents an older guard on today's City Council, which has moved to her left in recent years.

She has repeatedly won re-election to her seat representing the 7th Ward, which stretches from the western parts of downtown to the Bryn Mawr, Kenwood and Cedar-Isles-Dean neighborhoods.

But in recent years, she found herself among a relatively moderate group on the council, and occasionally accused of being a "conservative" representing the city's most privileged neighborhoods.

Following the murder of George Floyd in 2020, Goodman was among a minority of council members who refused to sign a pledge to "begin the process of ending the Minneapolis Police Department."

Being labeled conservative is something Goodman greets with a chuckle of incredulity.

"I was the lefty that people in my neighborhood were afraid of," she said, referring to when she first took office in 1998. "Some viewed me as too left-leaning when I first ran."

For example, she said, she opposed the city's approval of U.S. Bank Stadium for the Minnesota Vikings, a project she still describes as "corporate welfare."

"Although I probably have become a bit more moderate over the years, I feel like I have stood still and the world has changed around me."

'Discourse is intense'

In an announcement emailed to constituents, Goodman wrote, "When I first took office in 1998 Minneapolis was a very different city than it is today," listing dark moments such as the I-35W bridge collapse and murder of George Floyd alongside "positive changes," such as downtown growth and the creation of an affordable housing trust fund.

Goodman said the volume alone of calls and emails, which has increased with the advent of electronic communications, has shifted, but so has the tone. Even though she's never been on Twitter and doesn't keep a public Facebook account, she has still felt the heat of some in the online left, she said.

"The level of discourse is intense," she said. "And the negativity and hatred is hurtful. I am a real person who loves the city and comes to work every day with a real sense of duty. To have people trashing me, making fun of what I look like, threatening to throw Molotov cocktails at me and have signs put in my yard, I'm not sure I deserve to be treated like that, even if it is by a small minority of people."

Accomplishments

A native of Chicago, Goodman worked as Wellstone's chief fundraiser in his successful campaign in 1990. She served as executive director of NARAL Minnesota, now known as Pro-Choice Minnesota, before being elected to the City Council in 1998.

Her career witnessed the transformation of parts of downtown, including the establishment of the theater district.

"When I started, Hennepin Avenue was a one-way street, bikes were not allowed on Nicollet Mall, and there were no food trucks or sidewalk cafes," she said Monday.

Former Council Member Cam Gordon, who served with Goodman from 2006 until last year, said he and Goodman often came at issues with different views, but developed a mutual respect.

"We certainly had our differences because I was elected to represent Ward 2, which was more diverse and less affluent," Gordon said Monday. "But she was flexible and open-minded to work together on common ground, when it existed."

Gordon related a story of a plan to make repairs to the roof of the Target Center, a city-owned facility that Gordon wasn't a fan of.

Gordon said the choice before the committee on which he and Goodman sat were between a traditional tarred roof and a roof that would be painted white, to reflect heat of the sun.

"I leaned over to her and said, 'Why don't we do a green roof?' and she said, 'I'd support that,'" Gordon recalled. "To make a long story short, that's what we did."

What's next?

Goodman said she's made no plans for her future.

"I don't know," she said when asked. "And it is a scary thought to make a transition like this at my age. But I'm not guaranteed a long life. I feel confident that this is the right decision for me.

"And I still have another year in office."