Assessing the first half of Mayor Rybak's term
A discussion of Mayor R.T. Rybak's first two years in office has to start with finances. He is fond of repeating: "We put together four budgets in 20 months."
Rybak and the new City Council took hits on many financial fronts.
The state cut Minneapolis' local government aid by $61 million over two years. The stock market slump and early retirements left the city with a $350 million long-term shortfall in three pension funds. The city is paying the debt from previous administration's "internal borrowing." State tax law changes choked off tax-increment financing, a city tool to spur development, including the Neighborhood Revitalization Project (NRP).
In spite of the money woes, Rybak said he loves his job. While he has not made a formal announcement about a 2005 reelection bid, "It will be very hard for me not to run," he says.
Many, such as state Rep. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, give Rybak high marks for coping well with the hand he was dealt.
"He had to manage out of years of mismanagement and boom times that occurred prior to his election -- headlong into an extremely difficult political and budgetary environment," Dibble said.
The mayor has delivered detailed budgets to the Council earlier in the year than his predecessor, allowing more time for discussion. The mayor and Council tackled pension shortfalls by selling pension bonds. For the first time, city departments are making five-year business plans.
Councilmember Scott Benson (11th Ward) called five-year planning "a huge leap forward -- and you really have to give a lot of credit to the mayor.
"You don't realize it was a completely political process of horse trading not too long ago," he said.
That said, in 2005, the mayor and Councilmembers likely will face voters frustrated with property tax hikes. They capped overall increases at 8 percent annually, but homeowners' average yearly hikes will be higher because state tax law has shifted the burden from commercial/industrial property to homes.
Rybak came into the mayor's office on the wings of his anti-airport-noise advocacy and a personal history as a former reporter, Internet consultant and political novice.
He faltered in early attempts to oust Police Chief Robert Olson. (Rybak calls it his single biggest mistake so far.) After Olson's contract expired, the mayor bypassed internal candidates popular among Councilmembers and chose outsider William McManus to change the Department.
Rybak has put a priority on affordable housing, ethics code reforms, and a revamp of city development and permitting practices. With no new money, he has scrounged for small "legacy projects," such as re-allocating $200,000 to plant more boulevard trees.
The Minneapolis system gives the mayor little clout, and the mayor is only as effective as his ability to persuade Councilmembers. His last budget passed 11-2, with minimal changes.
"The mantra from my staff has been, 'count to seven and keep going' -- meaning don't just have a narrow majority on the Council, but keep trying to build a broad consensus," he said.
He is not without critics.
Some question his support of public funding for a new baseball stadium, a reversal from candidate Rybak (which the mayor quietly acknowledges). Others say he spreads himself too thin and can lose focus. Still others say they are waiting for him to come through on improving community engagement or fulfilling a campaign stance against nonelection-year fund-raising.
Rybak has been at odds with some Councilmembers. Natalie Johnson Lee (5th Ward) gave a minimalist analysis of the mayor's first two years. "I think we have differences of opinion," she said. "I think he is doing the best that he knows how to do."
Asked what changes she'd like to see in the next two years, Johnson Lee said only: "You don't have that much time."
Councilmember Robert Lilligren (8th Ward) said Rybak needed to improve his relationship with Councilmembers, working in closer partnership on key issues, such as the nomination of Police Chief William McManus. He urged the mayor to do more "shuttle diplomacy" and "face-to-face conversations."
Councilmember Lisa Goodman (7th Ward) has been a Rybak supporter, although she said they have very different styles. Rybak is more likely to put the best face on everything, she said.
"I think it is important to call a spade a spade," Goodman said. "He will call a spade a heart if it makes the city look good because he believes so much in it. ... I think that is probably what causes fireworks between us."
The DFL, Greens and Republicans will meet in just 12 months to nominate candidates for local offices. Rybak will now have a record to run on -- and defend.
Here are several issues, in no particular order, that will be on the political radar.
Rybak's support for a new Downtown baseball stadium -- with public financing -- has caught some people by surprise.
Sen. Wes Skoglund said he was "startled" by Rybak's stadium stance. "I thought he was a stadium opponent in the election," he said.
Ben Goldfarb, executive director of Progressive Minnesota, said, for "an outspoken critic of big corporate welfare deals" such as Rybak, "it is pretty disappointing that he has ended up where he has ended up."
Rybak backs a $535 million Warehouse District stadium that includes private and state, Hennepin County and city money. Minneapolis would contribute $7 million from game-day parking revenue in city ramps -- below a $10 million limit that would force a voter referendum.
Asked whether he made a campaign promise to oppose public money for a new stadium, Rybak hedged. "It was certainly not a huge thing I said," he said. "I may have. Frankly, I can't nail that exactly. That may have been the case."
Asked later about a City Pages article that said Rybak did oppose public funding for a stadium during a campaign debate on MPR, Rybak acknowledged that his position had changed.
"But what I'm advocating comes directly out of my promise to be a fierce advocate for Minneapolis," he said.
"I came to the conclusion that if a stadium is built, it's going to be millions of dollars less expensive for the taxpayer if it's built at this site because of the transportation connections, including LRT, dedicated bikeways and highways; the fan base of 165,000 Downtown workers and 30,000 Downtown residents and the region's best entertainment district in the heart of the Warehouse District."
City support for the ballpark would not erode police, fire and other basic services, Rybak said. It would come from parking -- a user fee -- not the General Fund.
Unlike the Target Center or the Convention Center, the county would help pay. "This is the first time the city will ever have a partnership on one of these major regional amenities where the city is not paying all the bill," he said.
Sen. Jane Ranum said she thinks the mayor has spent too much time on the stadium issue.
"That stadium is not the top priority, period. I think you don't want to send mixed signals [to the Legislature,]" Ranum said.
Said Rybak: "Sometimes we don't get to choose the issues that are in front of us."
Finishing the term: The stadium battle will continue to grab headlines, and if the Legislature passes a bill, Minneapolis and Hennepin County will fight it out with St. Paul, with everything decided before the 2005 city elections.
The Big Question: Win or lose in the stadium sweepstakes, will voters get mad at the mayoral flip-flop, or follow his path to stadium acceptance?
Choosing William McManus for police chief is a keystone decision for the mayor -- and Rybak's most fractious to date with the City Council.
Several Councilmembers said they were left out of the loop. They preferred internal candidates -- deputy chiefs Lucy Gerold or Sharon Lubinski -- but approved Rybak's nomination 9-4.
The mayor and Council agree that public safety is the city's top job. That makes the police chief nomination the mayor's most important.
Because of state aid cuts and resulting Council and mayoral spending decisions, McManus will have fewer staff to work with than his predecessor. The Police Department is down 127 positions compared to 2002, a 12 percent drop.
Among the new chief's priorities is healing long-standing rifts between his Department and various minority communities.
"One of the ways we will judge whether we are safer or not -- regardless of budget -- is whether the entire community and the Police Department are working hand-in-hand," Rybak said.
A Rybak-appointed citizens' group screened candidates and helped promote McManus. Rybak built more unanimity on the committee than he did on the Council.
Councilmembers Don Samuels (3rd Ward) and Johnson Lee, both black, backed McManus. Four Southside Councilmembers did not, and Gary Schiff (9th Ward) voted yes only after criticizing the process.
Councilmember Dan Niziolek (10th Ward) chairs the Public Safety and Regulatory Services Committee that oversees the Police Department.
The mayor involved him early in the process, he said, but not at the end.
"When it came down to the conversation about which of the candidates would be stronger and which ones we should move forward, he clearly took it on himself and made the decision, instead of working in partnership," Niziolek said, noting it reflects the mayor's broader problem with Council relations.
Councilmember Robert Lilligren (8th Ward) said the mayor missed an opportunity to make city leadership more diverse by appointing a woman, minority and/or a gay or lesbian.
McManus started work Feb. 17 and quickly touched off a media storm. He put three top cops on paid leave -- including Gerold. Questions swirled around a memo on the year-old shooting of Officer Duy Ngo and whether staff mishandled it.
An outside investigation cleared Gerold and the others of criminal charges; an internal investigation is ongoing. Some charged McManus with playing internal politics.
Despite the turmoil, Rybak strongly defends McManus and the chief's subsequent decisions. "I did not pick Chief McManus to do the status quo," he said.
Finishing the term: McManus must execute. Citizens must feel as safe or safer, and those with complaints about police misconduct must feel better treated.
The Big Question: Can McManus deliver safer streets and build bridges with minority communities -- and his subordinates -- with fewer staff?
Lee Blons, executive director the Plymouth Church Neighborhood Foundation, credits Rybak and Goodman for standing up for a supportive housing program in the face of controversy.
This fall, the foundation opened Lydia Apartments, 1920 LaSalle Ave. S., a 40-unit apartment for formerly homeless people, with support services. Some neighbors strongly opposed it -- even sued to block it -- saying the area had too many supportive housing programs.
"There had been a lot of pressure put on him [Rybak] for the city not to fund Lydia," she said. "He stood by the idea that this was a good supportive housing project that should get done."
The mayor and Council made affordable housing a priority. They have focused their efforts on housing affordable to people with very low incomes, 30 percent to 50 percent of the metro median income (MMI). (For a single person, 30 percent of MMI is $16,100 a year.)
On the mayor's Web page, an "affordable housing thermometer" lists new developments, the number of units and their affordability levels.
The mayor's buzzword is transparency -- giving the public access to the city affordable housing data. That transparency showed the city counted emergency shelter fix-ups as "affordable housing." The previous administration had done the same thing. Rybak took the P.R. hit and, after a short delay, changed the policy.
Adele Dellatorre of Linden Hills said Rybak's affordable housing efforts were "not black and white."
The city had increased housing funding but not at needed levels, said Dellatorre, a Minneapolis leader with MICAH, the Metropolitan Interfaith Council for Affordable Housing.
"I remember how enthusiastic [he was]-- and how he campaigned on this as a priority," she said. "I don't think we anticipated all the budget changes that affected our state, city and county governments."
Rybak said his 2003 budget established a $10 million Affordable Housing Trust Fund, as well as a community review board to help direct the money.
The $10 million isn't all new money, however. The trust fund stabilized what had been a floating number, said Cynthia Lee, manager of multifamily housing for the city's department of Community Planning and Economic Development.
The city typically had $5 million to $7 million a year for affordable housing projects, drawn from different pots of money, she said. The city shifted more money from the federal Community Development Block Grant to get the Trust Fund to $10 million.
In 2003, the city created, rehabilitated or preserved 610 units, just shy of its 650-unit goal, its annual housing report said.
Finishing the term: The city has a 2004 affordable housing goal to preserve and/or add 700 units and a 2005 goal of 750 units. According to a city report, it has approximately 1,500 affordable units in the pipeline.
The Big Question: Will the numbers add up or just raise more questions?
Ken Bradley, Rybak's first campaign staffer, says he thinks the mayor needs to do more to push for local campaign finance reform -- as Rybak promised.
Before he worked on the campaign, Bradley chaired the Sierra Club's Twin Cities Political Committee, he said. He recalled how impressed people were with candidate Rybak's proposals, which included a call to ban campaign contributions in nonelection years. It helped Rybak get the Sierra Club endorsement prior to the DFL Convention.
"It was an issue that defined him from other candidates," Bradley said.
Rybak is proud of his efforts to "restore trust in City Hall," he said. He focused on ethics reforms instead of campaign finance issues, which require state law changes.
At his urging, the City Council passed a new ethics code in March 2003. It broadens the definition of conflict of financial interest to include city employee's spouses, domestic partners and dependents. It added a new section on nepotism.
The code creates the position of city ethics officer and a three-person Ethical Practices Board, which should be appointed soon.
Councilmember Scott Benson (11th Ward) served on the Ethics Task Force and authored the Ethics Code changes. He did not carry -- nor does he support -- campaign finance law changes.
The law now limits city campaign donations to $100 a year in nonelection years. Benson said the city won't ask the Legislature to ban nonelection-year fund-raising because a gift that can't top $100 lacks "huge ethical ramifications."
"I don't know why he [Rybak] ran on it," Benson said.
Rybak had a fund-raiser New Year's Eve at Sam and Sylvia Kaplan's Downtown Minneapolis home. In his first two years in office, Rybak has raised $27,337, according to campaign finance reports filed at Hennepin County. The campaign had $21,955 in the bank at the start of 2004.
He has set an extremely high fund-raising standard to avoid conflicts of interest, he said. He is not taking money from people who do business with the city, even though current law allows it.
His finance report does not itemize contributors of $100 or less, and the law does not require it. However, Rybak has released the list to reporters who have requested it.
Laura Sether, a Rybak aide and his 2001 campaign manager, said the mayor would not discontinue off-year fund-raising unilaterally.
Rybak said he would use the Kaplan fund-raising money to respond to attacks, if needed. For example, he went to Pepito's Restaurant, 4820 Chicago Ave., one night and found a flyer that criticized him for firefighter cuts, "saying I was trying to burn down houses," he said.
Rybak said he didn't want to be "a sitting duck."
Finishing the term: The reforms seem to be over for now. What's done will have more time to be tested.
The Big Question: How much will people care about the off-year contributions issue at election time?
Jobs and development
One of Rybak's and the Council's first major initiatives is also the toughest to explain.
The mayor and Councilmembers streamlined the city's development process. They merged the Minneapolis Community Development Agency, the Planning Department, the Empowerment Zone, and Minneapolis Employment and Training Program into a single department of Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED).
It's not the kind of thing that lends itself to a campaign slogan.
Rybak said the change is part of a broader plan to focus the city on two key goals: jobs and housing.
Among the most visible changes, the city is launching Minneapolis One Stop this spring, an effort to make it easier for homeowners, contractors and developers to find all the zoning and permit information they need in one spot.
"We did something that people have tried for many years to do -- reform the development function of the city," Rybak said. "We have created a single development arm."
Niziolek has concerns about the final result. The Planning Department has a secondary role, he said. The organization's different parts are still spread out, undermining coordination.
"On paper it looks good," he said. "But when you try to make it in reality, it has a ways to go."
The overhaul has included new faces. Rybak nominated Lee Sheehy, formerly the regional manager and chief operating officer of the Metropolitan Council, to lead the agency. Mike Christenson directs strategic partnerships.
Christenson is promoting job growth through public-private partnerships, similar to work he did as executive director of the Allina Health Systems Foundation. His current projects include the new Life Sciences Corridor, an effort to encourage medical and research investment along Chicago Avenue between the Hennepin County Medical Center and Lake Street, Allina's new headquarters site.
Finishing the term: Structural changes need to show tangible results. For instance, CPED's 2004 workplan includes creating a new Riverfront Development Corporation -- a partnership guiding development along the Mississippi from Downtown upstream.
Minneapolis One Stop customers would need to see improved service. (Deputy Mayor David Fey said the city is tracking processing times to find out.)
The Big Question: Will CPED make a noticeable improvement on jobs, permitting and planning, or merely rearrange the deck chairs on a sluggish ship?
Candidate Rybak promised to throw open the doors of government.
Today, he points to a series of community summits as examples of progress. He and the Civil Rights Department staff met with people of African descent, of Asian descent and with the Chicano/Latino/Hispanic and the Native American communities.
That information will get fed into the city's budget process, he said. He has held summits on affordable housing and the environment. A 21-member citizen committee helped him screen police chief candidates.
"We have opened up a lot of doors. We have a long way to go," he said.
Ask people about the mayor's success on "civic engagement," a somewhat squishy thing to measure, and you get a Rybak Rorschach test.
Councilmember Robert Lilligren (8th Ward) said he was disappointed the mayor did not find more money for the Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP). Further, the city could better use neighborhood groups as a vehicle for civic engagement on a range of city issues, he said.
"What has been happening instead is a diminishing of the NRP role -- and a diminishing of seeing it as an independent autonomous group," he said. "It is discussed now as a city department."
Cam Gordon, a Green Party member and former City Council candidate, attended a neighborhood meeting Rybak hosted to explain the budget crisis. He gave him high marks.
"He certainly went to great lengths to hold a lot of community meetings," Gordon said. "I think he and his administration actually are willing to listen."
Tony Looking Elk, cochair of the Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors (MUID), said he has enjoyed a good personal relationship with the mayor but wants the relationship institutionalized. "If he walked away today, what would continue and ultimately what would need to be restarted in a new mayor administration?" he asked.
One tangible measure of civic engagement is NRP funding. Candidate Rybak supported full funding but could not deliver.
NRP's financial underpinnings fell out as Rybak took office. State tax law changes cut NRP's funding source. State aid cuts and other budget pressures limited alternative funding.
Councilmember Barret Lane (13th Ward) forged a plan to stabilize NRP, backed by the mayor. It dropped NRP 2001-2009 funding from $131 million to an estimated $89 million.
The mayor says civic engagement goes beyond NRP. The city spends millions of dollars to involve the public -- through police SAFE teams and public meetings on street projects or liquor licenses, as well as NRP, a city analysis said.
Deputy Mayor David Fey has called the current system "chaotic" and "uncoordinated" -- but expanding NRP's role is not the solution, he said.
"NRP has been a community improvement program," Fey said. "It was never intended to be the single process by which the city would get input from the community."
Some people are still looking for mayoral leadership to revamp the city's "chaotic" process. Gretchen Nicholls, executive director of the Center for Neighborhoods, said the mayor indicated an interest, then the discussion "sort of fell off the map."
"The mayor's office doesn't seem to be the hub of the conversation anymore."
Fey calls Nicholls' comments understandable.
He said last year, the mayor was focused on a budget crisis and merging the city's development and planning functions.
"The issue is partly how much organizational reform can a mayor and Council take on at once?" he asked.
Finishing the term: The Council directed the Communications Office to spearhead civic engagement improvements and standardize outreach, a move greeted in some quarters with arched eyebrows because the office promotes city successes. Fey expects involvement initiatives will be included in Rybak's 2005 budget proposal.
The Big Question: Will the city's haphazard civic engagement look any different in 2005 than it did in 2001?
Parks, libraries, schools
Rybak has clashed with park and library leaders in his first two years but promises a more conciliatory tone.
The mayor has criticized park leaders for buying their new riverfront headquarters building. He has questioned library leaders' expansion plans when they don't have a long-term plan to pay to operate the space they already have.
"It is not my job to be loved by the independent boards," he said, but "to use every way I can to try to deliver big results for better dollars."
Rybak also urged delays in the Minneapolis Public Schools' plan to close schools -- to allow for community dialogue.
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and the Minneapolis Library Board have taken significant state aid cuts, the same as the city. They have both cut staff and service hours.
In Minneapolis, the parks and library systems have separate boards, yet the mayor and City Council have some budget oversight. That can cause tension.
For instance, in the last few years, the city began charging the parks and libraries a new annual "administrative fee," in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, to the dismay of independent board leaders.
Rybak's 2004 budget included extra money for the Park Board to build new skate board parks and plant more boulevard trees, money it had not requested. Library leaders say the mayor has worked hard behind the scenes to help raise significant money for the new Central Library and Franklin Library.
Bob Fine, former Park Board president, defended the headquarters purchase, saying it would save money in the long run. Rybak makes up his mind on park issues before he talks to the Park Board, he said.
Park Board member Walt Dziedzic said Rybak's tree money would help the mayor's reelection campaign as much as it would help the park system.
Library Board member Diane Hofstede said she thought the mayor had done a good job but was disappointed he tried to scale down the Library Board's borrowing plans.
"It is difficult to understand how you can have a well-balanced city that doesn't recognize the necessity for those kinds of institutions," she said.
In the next two years, Rybak said he wants to start a conversation with the parks, schools and libraries on facility sharing. Taxpayers are getting an inefficient use of space, he said. Schools will need to close, and libraries and park centers have shorter hours.
"I intend to throw fewer bombs back and forth and have us be more constructive," he said, referring to the Park Board.
Finishing the term: State cuts will keep on coming. The mayor, council and independent boards will face continued pressure to cut or combine programs.
The Big Question: Can city leaders make sure efficiency, not recriminations, rule the day amid constant budget pressure?
Promoting the city
Rybak gets high marks across the board for his energy and enthusiasm as the city's head booster, but some question whether he overextends himself.
Rybak has been a pitchman for silent sports, such as the City of Lakes Loppet cross-country ski races. He has worked with city hospital executives and leading researchers to promote a new Life Sciences Corridor along Chicago Avenue.
Hennepin County Commissioner Gail Dorfman, a DFLer who represents southwest Minneapolis and St. Louis Park, credits Rybak with improving city-county cooperation on issues such as lead-safe housing and police training.
Rybak said in the next two years, he wants to engage parks, library and school leaders on a facility-sharing plan, launch a children's agenda, continue work on a statewide airport plan, environmental issues, and ...
Rybak-backer Tracy Nordstrom said,
"If you have been around R.T. enough,
he gets an idea in his head and that's just it. We're all going with it. The ball is
rolling. Let's get to work."
Councilmember Lisa Goodman said she would put Rybak against St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly any day.
"I think the thing that he has done best, his number one thing, he has shown a contagious passion for the city that cannot be quantified in terms of its worth," she said. "There is something to be said for having your top cheerleader be a top cheerleader."
Rybak said he appreciates the compliment, but doesn't want his role diminished.
"People will sometimes marginalize some of the work by saying 'R.T. is a good cheerleader,'" he said. "You don't do four budgets in 20 months, reform the development functions of the city, make significant changes in public safety and all the other work we've done with a couple of pom-poms. This is serious, significant reform."
Some, such as southwest Minneapolis DFL Sen. Scott Dibble, said Rybak gets so enthusiastic about so many things that sometimes he doesn't see everything through to conclusion. (Dibble adds he himself is guilty of the same thing.)
Dibble said Rybak asked him to launch a transportation initiative. Working with former Councilmember Dor/ Mead, Dibble pulled together a citizen transportation advisory committee, modeled on the affordable housing work.
"I felt it didn't get anywhere because we lost his attention," Dibble said.
Rybak said his team tried to do too much by itself during the transition. It decided to start with affordable housing.
The transportation project required changes in Public Works, he said. Now the city has hired a new public works director and will soon add a transportation director. The Dibble group can be brought back in.
Delaying the transportation work, "was an example of having to make choices and not getting spread too thin," Rybak said.
Finishing the term: The budget issues won't get any easier, and Rybak has many major initiatives on the table, from those already on his plate such as airport noise and civic engagement, to ones he wants to launch, such as the children's agenda.
The Big Question: Will Rybak keep all the balls in the air or will they fall on his head?
On Downtown streets, mayor merits a shrug
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak is just past the halfway mark of his administration, and from the way people living and working Downtown see it, he's doing a good job, if only by default.
"The mayor? I haven't thought about it that much. I guess he's doing a good job," Roth Kersten said during a lunch break from his job at Target Corp., 1000 Nicollet Mall.
Kersten's opinion was a prevailing notion among those inhabiting the skyways and byways of Downtown. It seems that many Minneapolis residents and workers simply haven't paid much attention to the mayor's doings during his term so far.
"Rybak? Um, I'm really not sure," resident Margaret Goodson remarked during her shopping at Marshall Field's, 700 Nicollet Mall. "I haven't noticed anything getting worse, so I guess he's doing OK."
Many inhabiting Downtown were not even sure who the mayor was. "Rybak? How do you spell that?" Asif Asgar said during a lunch break in City Center, 615 Hennepin Ave. S. "I really don't know anything about him."
Negative opinions were hard to find and, in those cases, they were mostly generalizations other than direct criticisms of the mayor himself.
"I don't trust any politicians," said Emily Hall, while taking a break in the IDS Crystal Court, 80 S. 8th St. "They all cheat and steal. I can't find any good with any of them."
So, can Rybak be viewed as a good mayor simply by being vanilla? If he's not perceived as doing any harm, can he be viewed as doing good? That seems to be the question.
"I think he's doing a good job, but a lot of people don't think about him," said Wells Fargo employee Eric Wogen. "I don't think that he has that powerful of a position. All he needs to do is not make an idiot out of himself."
While most sheepishly concurred that Rybak was in fact doing a good job, most could not say why or why not. When asked whether they supported the mayor's initiatives, most surveyed could not think of any.
"He's for a Twins stadium right? I like that," Neil Merritt said, after he had just left the Timberwolves souvenir store in Block E, 600 Hennepin Ave. S. "Other than that, I don't know what else he stands for."
Many more knew about, or asked about, Rybak's appearance rather than his issues.
"He's a young-looking guy, and I think I remember hearing that he dressed very unusually," Nathan Hayes quipped while waiting for coffee at Starbucks, 81 S. 9th St. "Does he still wear those mismatched socks?"
After two years in office, many just don't seem to know much about the man. However, that does not seem to stop them from liking him.
"I was doing fine two years ago, and I'm doing fine now," David Thompson said as he was about to enter Kieran's Irish Pub, 330 2nd Ave. S. "If that's a yardstick for how he's doing, then I guess, to me, he's doing fine, too."