Mayor commends U

The State of the City address praised the University for its role in fostering city growth.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak showed his respect for the University on Monday by delivering his annual State of the City speech at McNamara Alumni Center. He addressed the importance of a strong middle class.

“The University has played a pivotal role in one of the most unique characteristics of Minneapolis – its strong and vast middle class,” Rybak said.

While other large metropolitan cities, such as Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Atlanta, have experienced significant deterioration of the middle class, levels in Minneapolis have remained relatively consistent, he said.

Throughout his speech, Rybak embraced the middle class as the glue that holds the city together.

He said while some University graduates go on to become “extraordinarily wealthy,” many have used their education to move into the middle class.

“Minneapolis remains a place where opportunity still provides a path into the middle class, and we need to keep this vision alive,” Rybak said.

University President Bob Bruininks introduced Rybak as a mayor who “thinks globally, but acts locally.”

Rybak supported Bruininks’ comments by focusing on alternative energy sources.

“With our climate under siege and fossil fuels becoming scarce, the University and the city of Minneapolis have a golden opportunity to be centers of the new energy economy,” Rybak said.

Rybak has also worked toward resolving several pressing issues, including violence and unemployment.

This past year, Minneapolis added 100 police officers and increased the amount of arrests by 22 percent, with convictions of chronic offenders up 60 percent.

Of those newly hired officers, 32 percent were people of color, and Rybak said he wants the number to continue to grow into next year.

In addition to diversifying the police force, the city has implemented more safety cameras and a ShotSpotter gunfire technology that Rybak said has produced promising results.

As another way of combating crime, Rybak discussed cracking down on mortgage foreclosures.

“When we can’t prevent a foreclosure, we have to stabilize, redevelop and rehab vacant property by getting it into the hands of a responsible resident,” he said.

With 9,000 newly added jobs, the city’s unemployment rate has dropped to 3.9 percent, the lowest it has been in the past six years.

Rybak strongly recommended that businesses keep those employees living nearby, rather than in bordering suburbs.

The Phillips neighborhood grew significantly stronger when the Abbot Northwestern hospital started encouraging employees to buy homes near the hospital.

Rybak said the same result could be possible if the University encouraged faculty members to live close to campus in the Southeast Como and Marcy-Holmes neighborhoods.

Rybak did not spend much time on transportation – an issue 2nd Ward Councilman Cam Gordon said deserved more attention.

“He mentioned transportation a little bit, but perhaps he could have played it up a little more,” Gordon said, “particularly given the planning underway for the central corridor that’s going to be continuing the light-rail system.”