Council member Lisa Bender is Minneapolis’ champion of pedestrian-friendly urban design and year-round maintenance of carless thoroughfares. She’s been advocating for tougher enforcement of snow shoveling, calling on residents to think of their neighbors who rely on sidewalks to get around.
The city recently sent letters to households announcing an imminent crackdown on those who neglect to shovel.
So the Star Tribune’s Miguel Otarola, who’s been dutifully relaying each thrilling episode of the Minneapolis' various sidewalk clearing strategies, decided to check if the council’s able-bodied members were themselves in compliance.
He found just one errant homeowner: Lisa Bender, who racked up seven complaints last winter alone. The city had to send someone to shovel her sidewalk, fining her $149, the Star Tribune reported.
Bender, it turns out, is as human as the rest of us. She responded that as a working mother of two small children, she can’t always shovel on time. If not terribly considerate of the elderly and disabled who live in her neighborhood, her excuse is at least relatable.
But after the Strib (which owns City Pages) reported its findings, Bender took to Twitter to accuse the paper of calling her out just because she's a woman.
Fellow council member Jeremiah Ellison piled on, telling the “hostile” Star Tribune to cover Donald Trump more, since the president frequently attacks media institutions (for covering anything unflattering to him, ironically).
The people, however, would take a decidedly different position:
this is gross and harmful to women everywhere who are legitimate victims of misogyny. of course it's going to be considered newsworthy when a council who zealously pursues shoveling scofflaws is being led by one.— ™ (@mplsmrcle) November 28, 2018
Really? The Strib checked on all your colleagues in the midst of your push to get the rest of us in Mpls to comply. Just because you’re the only one who doesn’t follow the rules you impose doesn’t get you off because of the woman card.— Jan Unstad (@unstadj) November 28, 2018
This has nothing to do with you being a woman and everything to do with you being a hypocrite. If you are making laws you better be damn sure you are following them. In the u.s. army, we call that leading by example.— Joseph. (@Joroe40) November 28, 2018
Retired Star Tribune columnist Jon Tevlin was among them. His wife relies on a walker and mobility scooter to get around. He thinks it’s audacious of Bender to scold residents from a place of moral superiority -- knowing her own neighborly deficiency -- and then cry sexism when the paper dares to mention it.
“[Otárola] found one person [with complaints], and that happened to be council member Bender, and she happens to be a woman. Now does she think he really wouldn’t have reported that if it was one of the male members of the council? That’s just crazy.”
Tevlin says he’s called the city on neighbors for not shoveling before, and welcomes the crackdown. It's one of the most basic acts of neighborly consideration. While it may not be a big deal to most of us, it's critical to the elderly and disabled in their pursuit of a full life.
“I appreciate that she’s very busy, doing good things for the city, and I’m sure her husband is very busy too,” says Tevlin. “But I bet everybody on that block that she lives on is very busy, if not busier than she is, and they probably don’t make as much money.”