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R.T. Rybak: A Great Leader for a Great City Volunteer Contribute

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

New Blog!

Hey friends and fellow bloggers,

I've set up a new blog that's more useful and fun at http://rtrybak.typepad.com/my_weblog/

Hope you check it out so we can continue to dialogue about the future of Minneapolis, my campaign for reelection, and just day-to-day life in this great city.

R.T.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Day in the Life: March 14

I made a one day lobbying trip to Washington D.C. with two goals: update the Minnesota delegation in Congress on Minneapolis' agenda, and deepen contacts with other Minnesota officials in town for the League of Cities Conference.
My meetings with the delegation included Council Members Paul Ostrow, Scott Benson, Sandy Colvin Roy and Robert Lilligren. The top issue we talked about was the proposed massive cut in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG). These are the dollars that are the backbone of our affordable housing and job training program, many of our health initiatives, programs like Nokomis Healthy Seniors that keep seniors in their homes. This is the second time I've been on Capital Hill to lobby against these cuts and it seems there is progress. Both Minnesota's Senators are fighting them so please thank Sen. Coleman and Sen. Dayton. And, as always, Congressman Sabo is fighting hard to protect them.
During our vitists I also delivered a petition from some of our faith partners who are working in our coalition to fight the cuts. It was very effective to be able to give the Congress people these peitions, including the one from St. Mark's Cathedral that included people from all over the region.
Another of the major issues we talked about was the airport. I've been talking with our Congressional delegation to get their support for work in Minnesota on a statewide aviation strategy....a statewide look at how airports like St. Cloud, Duluth, Rochester, Willmar and even Mankato can be used to carry some traffic...improving air traffic into the state, opening access to low cost carriers and , in the process, hopefully giving our neighborhoods some relief from the worst traffic, esp. loud night flights and cargo.
After our meetings we had a reception the city hosted for Minnesota officials in D.C. for the conference. I estimate we had about 100 people there, including Mayors from many cities (Stillwater, Minnetonka, Crystal, Plymouth, Rochester, St. Cloud, Morehead) and lots of council members (including Debbie Montgomery and Dave Thune from St. Paul). Building these bridges with local officials in other parts of Minnesota is really helpful as we try to develop broader coalitions.
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In the morning I heard a really great speech by Howard Dean, new chair of the party, who really rallied everyone there. It's great to see him in this position. ....he gets the need to fight hard for our principals, to not back down...but he also understands the need to build a strong grass roots organization. I'm really happy he's running the party.
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Over the lunch hour I walked a couple miles through town and ran into a really interesting situation. A man who may well have been homeless was walking down the street barefoot. A few seconds after I noticed him, a woman in a bright yellow parka holding a walkie talkie approached him and very compassionately started talking to him. She moved him into the sun so he could get warm and then called on her walkie talkie for help. A homeless advocate arrived and left with the man.
I asked the woman who she worked for and found out she was a public safety ambassador who worked for the downtown association. She isn't a police officer...she works with them, identifying trouble spots before they become larger, giving people directions, making them feel safe. This is the kind of ambassador we have been talking about for downtown and some of our neighborhood commercial districts. After seeing this I called Sam Grabowski of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, who has been a strong advocate of this to say how well this works and that I want to continue to work on getting these in downtown. They are supported by the businesses and would be possible if we get the Special Service District we are proposing for downtown. I also stopped into the downtown association to hear more....so will you because this can really do a lot to improve safety and perception on our streets.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Day in the Life: March 12

Megan and I were at two very different but wonderful community events in the past two nights.
Friday night (after a really nice dinner at the Birchwood) we went to Theater Mu's production of "The Walleye Kid." Theater Mu's executive director Rick Shiomi is co-chairing the Mosaic Arts celebration (www.minneapolismosaic.com) with Megan and he's one of the real bright lights in local theater. This production is based loosely on a children's fantasy story Megan and I used to read to our kids called "Peach Boy", about an elderly couple that really wants a child and gets its wish when a baby suddenly is brought to them by a magical fish. The twist in the Theater Mu production is that the baby is from Korea and her adoption reflects the experience of playright Sundraya (Sonny) Kase as she grew up in Minnesota.
It's a really wonderful production, a musical in fact, that works well for both kids and adults. Like many of the art we want to showcase in Mosaic, it deals with themes of the mixing of cultures and does a great job of showing how the adopted girl had a place in two worlds.
The story is great, as is the production.....A real gem is the star Isabella Dawis who played Annie at the Chanhassen.
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The second great community event was tonight (Saturday). ....a celebration to honor one of my favorite people in Minneapolis: Laura Waterman Wittstock. Laura has been a writer, community activist, member of untold numbers of boards and one of the country's most respected American Indian voices. She started and for many years has run MIGIZI Communications, which has fostered Indian voices and trained kids of many cultures in technology and communications. She is retiring from MIGIZI but she is hardly retiring. She will continue to be very active in the community.
The speeches were really moving. Of special note was one by Kelly Morgan, co-chair of the Minneapolis Urban Indian Directors(MUD) group as she talked about how Laura has helped show her leadership roles. There were other great tributes by Roger Buffalohead, Hoang Tran, Marlene Helgemo, Kwame McDonald and Clyde Bellecort. (The master of ceremonies was Syd Beane, the executive director of the National American Indian Development Corporation....Shortly after he moved here a couple years ago, Megan and I had Laura and her husband Lloyd, and Syd and his wife over for dinner...It was an amazing evening that reminded us how lucky we are to have them in Minneapolis.)
I named today Laura Waterman Wittstock Day....and honor she deserves.
My first appointment as Mayor was to name Laura to the Library Board. She's now running for the position and I hope people support her at the DFL convention.

Day in the Life: March 11

Met in the morning with the Achieve!Minneapolis Board. This is the board I serve on that raises money for Minneapolis Public Schools. Today we had a very good discussion about job training programs and how we can continue to help the schools expand this work. We also had a report on Step Up, which now has more than 200 jobs committed. I gave two more speeches on it this week to business groups and I'm encouraged that people are getting the message about the importance of getting our kids meaningful work this summer.
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Wednesday we had a great celebration at Plaza Verde, the former Antiques Minnesota Building on Lake Street. The building had fallen into disrepair and was dragging down the very successful projects around it like Mercado Central, MeGusta Marketplace and Heart of the Beast. Heart of the Beast first tried to develop it alone but that did not work so Erik Takeshita of my staff and I helped bring in Neighborhood Development Center which is also doing the Global Marketplace in Midtown Exchange. NDC and Heart of the Beast ended up being great partners so the top floor has the great celebration/performance space for Heart of the Beast while the ground floor as emerging businesses and the second floor has support services for creating new businesses. One of my favorite projects we have done. Stop by and help celebrate.
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Friday afternoon at the State Capital we had a big victory. The Senate Transportation Committee approve unanimously a plan to develop a statewide aviation strategy. This is the result of several years of our lobbying to get a new vision for aviation in Minnesota that moves beyond just jamming more planes into the already over burdened MSP and over the already overburdend neighborhoods of south Minneapolis. I testified with Herb Bergson, the Mayor of Duluth. Previously I've testified with the Mayors of Rochester, St. Cloud, Willmar and Mankato. This coalition has made it possible to help change the direction of aviation debate at the Capital and for the first time in many years Minneapolis is not fighting this battle alone. I also have been working with members of the Congressional delegation from around the state to get them involved in this and will be talking with them again when I'm in Washington Monday.

Day in the Life: March 9

A very busy week that left me little time for blogging....Much of it was dominated by public safety work. Chief McManus and I announced the STOP division in the police department...a flexible tactical unit that we can deploy strategically to do proactive policing....The intent is to give better ability to have manpower that can be used to quickly respond to a growning challenge in an area. The most pressing need right now are sections of north Minneapolis where we had a very tragic shooting in the Best Steak House on Penn.... but it will be moved quickly depending on need. (FYI: The Best Steak House opens for business again Sunday and I encourage all of us to go to support them after they faced this tragedy.) Our Code 4 meetings each week identify safety trends and the STOP unit will give us another tool to address this.
At the time of the announcement we also announced we are hiring a new recruit class that will be on the street by summer. They will replace some of the more experienced officers who will be reassigned to STOP
Two other public safety developments: At the Empowerment Zone we approved about $250,000 in community based crime fighting grants. We are also continuing the work made possible by General Mills to coordinate other partners involved in fighting crime in north Minneapolis....The General Mills grant allowed the hiring of Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum to work with regional, state and federal law enforcement agencies to coordinate all their efforts on attacking the problem...Wexler was involved in the successful efforts to combat crime and gangs in the Phillips neighborhood a decade ago, as was Mike Christenson, who leads the city's economic development team. Also involved in that effort back then was Ellen Lugar of General Mills, who helped create this partnership so we are happy to have this experienced team to help coordinate an all out attack on crime. (More on this coordinated effort in the next couple weeks.)

Friday, March 04, 2005

Day in the Life: March 4

Enough about work....let's talk about food......In between a bunch of meetings I was at some great Minneapolis restaurants......check them out.

Breakfast at Maria's on Franklin Avenue. I had my favorite...the corn pancakes with cheese. After work met a group at Coconut Grove on Penn Av. N. in Fowell....this is a real find....wonderful island food, plenty spicy in a warm room with salsa and sooka music. We were there filming this community television piece encouraging people to go out after the smoking ban goes into effect....the owner of Coconut Grove went smoke free from the start, in honor of his mother who died of lung cancer.....a good reminder of why we are doing this.

Late night glass of wine at the great new wine bar across from the Riverview Theater in Longfellow.....It was packed with people in the wine bar having reasonably priced drinks off a very broad wine and beer menu....and others listening to the band in the coffee shop next door.

We stopped in there after seeing a movie at the Riverview Theater.

None of the businesses I mentioned above were open five years ago, and most opened in the past year or two.... Watching the owner of the wine bar rushing around from table to table reminded me there is a lot of sweat in opening these one of a kind businesses but it's also what makes the city so much better than a run of the mill 'burb filled with chains.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Day in the Life: March 3

A great coalition of busines, civic and political leaders....and a big group of students joined me for this morning's press conference to kick off Step Up. We seem well on our way to creating 300 summer jobs for kids, including this piece of great news: 75 kids from Edison High School alone have signed up. Think about what it will mean for north Minneapolis is 75 more kids are workign this summer....I really hope everyone can find a way to create a Step Up job....go to www.achieveminneapolis.org. The crowd included Richard Davis, president of US Bank; Ben Taylor, sr. vp. of Star Tribune; Ben Taylor of the University of Minnesota, Supt. Peebles, School Board Chair Joe Erickson; Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar.....lots more......and some great kids who deserve their first step on a career ladder.
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Over the noon hour we filmed the first part of a show for city cable about what it will be like to have smoke free bars and restaurants. Today's segment was an in awesome new restaurant...the Longfellow Grill on Lake Street and the River Road.....Really great food in this wonderful new building with big windows overlooking the river....and in summer an outdoor patio.....I predict this will be one of the city's most popular restaurants this summer.....and the added bonus is it's already smoke free.
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Tonight was at a meeting to tell residents who were promised full mitigation for their homes when the airport was expanded what the airports commission is up to now. Talking with people in the audience I heard a series of stories of people who were promised improvements in their homes....the largest investments almost all of them will have.....and are now being told their airports commission won't come through.....Worse, the money that was supposed to go to these homeowners is being used to expand the airport so Northwest can take over the main terminal. It's really arrogant and we are going to sue to protect them. Long term the solution is to continue to move forward with our goal of a statewide airport strategy that moves some traffic to places like St. Cloud and Rochester. I talked today with the mayors of St. Cloud and Willmar about this and will continue to lobby it at the Capitol. In the meantime it will take more of these meetings to get citizens the information they deserve....

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Day in the Life: March 2

Great time this morning at Orchestra Hall for the first of two days of concerts for all third graders in Minneapolis Public Schools. At each of the concerts I do a reading of The Tin Forest to a really wonderful orgininal composition played by the orchestra. It's wonderful to see the kids so into the music.......an especially lively group from Bryn Mawr. I had nice talks with the kids on the way in an out....A few of them were asking me about what it was like to be Mayor. I asked them if they wanted to be one some day. "Nah," one boy said. "I want to be Michael Jackson." I wasn't quite sure where to go with that one.
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Spoke this afternoon to a business group in south Minneapollis with another pitch for Step Up....and then did a radio interview on Step Up for WCCO....This leads up to tomorrow's press event to get more business leaders to create summer jobs this year.
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Jobs were also the focus this afternoon when I made a presentation to the Chancellor of the MNSCU and a board helping to decide which bonding projects the system should support at the state legislature. I was encouraging them to support their plan to build a Health training institute on the MCTC campus in downtown Minneapolis.....It amazes me that 12% of the city's population now works in health care so this training facility is a great way to build more career ladders.
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Abbott Northwestern's Heart Hospital had its grand opening tonight....really encouraging to see this big investment in Phillips, right next to the new Sears project.....The event gave me another chance to thank Allina and it's CEO Dick Pettengill for the decision to move it's headquarters to the former Sears building....and to promote our work on the new Lifesciences Corridor....the hope is to attract more medical related companies, especially medical devices and bio technology. Leaving I let myself dream about what this area will be like in 5 years....1300 or so more jobs, Global Marketplace, streetcar on the Midtown Greenway(?), people biking to work on the greenway, housing at all income levels, new businesses being launched in Plaza Verde......definately moving in the right direction.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Day in the Life: March 1

I just got in from a night at precinct caucuses....Great to see so many Democrats out tonight. Obviously I want to get as many as we can to support me at the convention...and early reports are we did extremely well tonight. But I was also just pleased to see some many people out regardless.....It's clear the momentum we generated in the last election has not gone away and we are ready to say united to get the change we need in the state in the next couple years. Minneapolis will continue to be the heart of the Democratic party and it's clear from tonight the energy is here. I also want to brag a bit about by family. My wife Megan spoke for me in the 13 ward...and was reportedly great.....Megan made me promise that if I ran she wouldn't have to speak.....but she's changed her mind and is doing great.....And Charlie and Grace went to the 7th Ward....and I've gotten five calls already saying they were awesome...OK I'm biased but it was great to hear....We decided to do this together, over a lot of family dinners four years ago, so it's great to see it has given them a chance to speak their views and play a role. Thanks for everyone for showing up.
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I had a lot of fun this afternoon in a rehearsal with the Minnesota Orchestra. The Orchestra got a great from the NEA to do a concert for every third grader in Minneapolis Public Schools. This will include a piece in which I perform a reading of The Tin Forest to their orchestration.....Totally new turf for me, to be reading while this amazing orchestra plays. The rehearsal went really well and tomorrow is the performance. I think the kids will love it.
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Good meeting today of the Phillips Partnership. This is the public private partnership that works together on the Phillips neighborhood. We heard about the plan to reconstruct Lake Street. Our community meetings have shown that there is a concern that the emerging businesses on Lake Street could suffer during construction so Target agreed to donate a lot of their advertising department's time to help develop a campaign to promote business there during construction. They had some great ideas and we are going to try to raise money to get it done. This is exciting work because we are getting out ahead of the curve....saying that construction projects can be successful IF they plan for helping businesses during the transition....The Phillips Partnership meeting also included updates on the Sears building, going well, and the Global Marketplace at Sears, which is attracting a lot of private contributions and so far appears to be competing well for state bonding money. We also talked about some interesting ideas for adding public art to the Midtown Greenway.
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We had our regular meeting of city department heads this morning. Steven Bosacker gave an update on the 311 system....this is the program that will eventually mean you can call a single number 311...to get a response to a city need....The city assessor also went over values in the city...property is going up in value all over town....not only homes but also commercial property, espeically on commercial streets. Good news generally, but the state's tax policy continues to harm homeowners, and the maps we saw today very clearly showed the state's policy is especially harmful to middle class and lower class neighborhoods....so we will continue to work at the state for reform.