When I drive over the evocative Hennepin Avenue Bridge, I think of my friend Mark Andrew and the surprising good that government can do.

Mark was on the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners when the bridge was built, and he played a big role in choosing its design. At a time when public works mostly looked like Soviet bad dreams, this bridge, opened in 1990, gracefully echoed the original 1855 suspension bridge on the site, the first ever spanning the Father of Waters. Mark showed me that government can do things that are practical, on budget, and add to the richness of life.
Mark is now running for mayor. I am biased — he’s been a dear friend for decades. And I am not speaking for the rest of the Rowdy Crowd here — just putting in my two cents’ worth.

Mark would be a kickass mayor.

He announced his candidacy Thursday at Washburn High, with school board member Dick Mammen among those standing with him. Andrew, Mammen and I graduated from Washburn in 1968, the most tumultuous year in my lifespan, a year that smashed together revolution, despair, blood politics, the failures and promise of democracy and the ideal of public service. So here are Mammen and Andrew, 45 years later, sleeves rolled up, working to make Minneapolis a better place for everyone to live. I’m proud of my brothers.

Decades ago, they, with others, created the Youth Coordinating Board, which brought together the city, county and school board to deal with kids’ issues. And to give kids a voice in policy-making. Revolutionary idea. This shows Mark knows how to be a catalyst to bring together groups and agencies that don’t normally work together.

In Mark’s professional work lately, he’s been working with sports teams and public agencies to create green facilities and get companies and utilities to sponsor green public works, sharing in the reputational value of being good stewards of land, water and air. Back in his county board days, Mark helped get the Minneapolis Greenway built, the recreational corridor using old below-grade railroad tracks just north of Lake Street. That Greenway has helped spur development and boost property values — a central tenet of Mark’s approach: environmentally sound projects can create jobs, build tax base, and attract residents. Going green is the right thing to do, which Mark has known since being the first president of the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group way back in the 1970s, and it’s also good for the city’s economy. Mark also helped bring together a whole bunch of governments to get light rail going in the Twin Cities — which has been a boon to transportation and development in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

More important, the guy’s got a soft heart, boundless (sometimes maniacal) energy, and a million ideas on how to make things better. He knows politics — was state DFL chair — but hasn’t lost his soul to it. He’s still a human being.

When Mammen was running for school board a couple of years ago, he said, “This is our town, boys, it’s in our hands now.” It’s like, when we were kids in South Minneapolis, we were borrowing dad’s car. Now it’s ours, and we have to take care of it. Mammen and Andrew are doing that.

I’d love to see Mark Andrew be mayor. Minneapolis would be better for his caring, his creativity, and his inability to give up.

— Bruce Benidt

(Bridge photo from Wikipedia)