Campaign for the Capitol

R.T. Rybak has announced his candidacy for the 2010 gubernatorial race.

by James Nord

Delivering prescriptions from his parentsâÄô community pharmacy at Chicago and Franklin avenues, a young R.T. Rybak was struck by the disparity between his life and those of his familyâÄôs customers. That inequality has been a significant motivation in RybakâÄôs, DFL, political career. Now, the third-term mayor of Minneapolis hopes to fix that problem statewide as governor. âÄúI think government should treat everyone fairly, but not equally,âÄù Rybak said. âÄúThe public needs to spend more time and money where thereâÄôs more need.âÄù Rybak attended Breck High School in Golden Valley before graduating from Boston College in 1978. He returned to Minneapolis to work as a reporter and entrepreneur and has been highly involved as a community organizer and activist. Rybak, elected mayor of Minneapolis in 2001, beat incumbent Sharon Sayles Belton with more than 60 percent of the vote. His progressive policies have shaped the course of the city since 2002 and have played a role in lowering the cityâÄôs debt, reducing the amount of job loss and sending lower income students to college, said Mike Christensen, executive director of the Minneapolis Department of Community Planning and Development, who has worked with Rybak daily since 2003. âÄúI think heâÄôs at his absolute best when heâÄôs exhorting 9th graders in the schools to do well,âÄù Christensen said. âÄúHeâÄôs very encouraging.âÄù The Minneapolis Promise, created in 2006, benefits low-income high school students through college financial assistance, the opportunity to compete for a summer job and in-school career counseling. About 1,000 Minneapolis students have attended the University of Minnesota for free in the past three years because of RybakâÄôs initiatives, Christensen said. Rybak criticized the âÄúcolossal messâÄù that he perceives as Gov. Tim PawlentyâÄôs legacy and said that he would be the strong executive necessary to correct the stateâÄôs budgetary problems. After a year in office, Rybak said he hopes to have put more Minnesotans to work, investing in future employment, implemented universal health care for the stateâÄôs children and lowered tuition at the University. âÄúHeâÄôs very creative, imaginative âĦ he continues to grow in public office,âÄù Christensen said. âÄúHeâÄôs a better executive today than he was last year and a much better executive than he was four years ago.âÄù But, Michael Brodkorb, the deputy chairman of the Republican Party of Minnesota, condemned RybakâÄôs spending and tax policies. Namely, he criticized property tax increases under Rybak and cuts in city services, while spending has increased in other areas. Last fall, Rybak supported a 6.6 percent increase on property taxes in the city as well as a $100 million cut in city spending, across all departments. âÄúHeâÄôs a classic Minneapolis liberal âĦ and I think his policies and his leadership style are clearly out of touch with the balance of Minnesota, particularly in greater Minnesota and the suburbs,âÄù Brodkorb said. âÄúI think his candidacy is going to go over like a lead balloon.âÄù Rybak has been campaigning since November while also having to maintain his mayoral responsibilities. But the energetic executive shrugged off the balancing act as something he loves. In a recent trip to Duluth, Rybak added Mayor Don Ness to a list of supporters including the DFL Latino Caucus, the Teamsters Local 120 union and the DFL Veterans Caucus. âÄúEven though IâÄôm from the metro area,âÄù Rybak said, âÄúWeâÄôre going to have to spend even more time and resources in greater Minnesota where there is tremendous need right now.âÄù