Campaigns kick-off for mayor of Minneapolis

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak kicked off his campaign for reelection Saturday morning. But his best-known opponent in the mayoral run, DFLer Bob Miller, has some different ideas about how the city should be run. Photo by Chris Roberts, DAILY.

Chris Roberts

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak kicked off his campaign for reelection Saturday morning. But his best-known opponent in the mayoral run, DFLer Bob Miller, has some different ideas about how the city should be run. Photo by Chris Roberts, DAILY.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak kicked off his campaign for reelection Saturday morning, and along with 150 supporters, discussed his plans to improve safety, opportunity, education and infrastructure in the city. But his best-known opponent in the mayoral run, DFLer Bob Miller, director of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program, has some different ideas about how the city should be run, including decentralizing the power in the mayorâÄôs office.

Looking for a change

Miller has been Director of the NRP since 1992 , a program that gathers residents to create goals and strategies to improve MinneapolisâÄô neighborhoods. As director of NRP for 16 years, Miller is the longest-serving department head in Minneapolis city government. Under his direction, the program has received several national awards. Miller has been an outspoken critic of the cityâÄôs new direction with the program, which will eliminate the current NRP body and replace it with a department that answers to the city coordinator. âÄúItâÄôs an expenditure that I donâÄôt think is going to be productive,âÄù he said. âÄúI would look at providing resources to residents for investment in their neighborhoodâĦitâÄôs going to build participation and hope in the neighborhoods and commitment to stay in the city.âÄù The way the city manages its funds is the biggest issue with the budget crisis, Miller said. He said he wouldnâÄôt use the entire Legacy Fund, the cityâÄôs internal $40 million endowment, to support infrastructure projects, which Rybak has proposed to do. âÄúI think they should be retaining those dollars to help with the shortfall,âÄù he said. âÄúIâÄôve managed millions and millions of dollars in resources and done it pretty well.âÄù Miller said he thinks there is too much power in the mayorâÄôs office, and would like to see more power given back to the residents of Minneapolis. He also wants to increase the amount of jobs and companies coming into the city, address the housing situation and establish pre-kindergarten education for children. Miller said he would consolidate several city and county functions to save money, a move he also thinks would improve some functions. Doug Walter, associate director of the Nakomis East Neighborhood Association , said Miller has a âÄútremendousâÄù understanding of the entire city after working with NRP for 16 years. âÄúI personally donâÄôt think our current mayor has a lot of depth,âÄù Walter said. âÄúHe is a great cheerleader for the city, but I donâÄôt think he has the skill set needed to manage a city of this size.âÄù

Moving forward

Rybak, who took office in 2002, said heâÄôs been through a lot with the city. During his time as mayor, the city has seen a budget crisis, challenges with crime and the 2007 collapse of the Interstate 35W Bridge . âÄúI have been able to help bring out the best of the people in this incredible city and get things done,âÄù he said. âÄúIâÄôve been about vision, but IâÄôve also been about results.âÄù But Rybak said he isnâÄôt running his campaign on his track record, but his four goals for the city: reducing crime, improving infrastructure, education and creating economic opportunity in the city. However, Rybak will be campaigning for reelection while he has to make cuts to MinneapolisâÄô 2009 budget. On Jan. 27, Gov. Tim Pawlenty proposed to cut local governments by more than $99.6 million in 2009. Minneapolis alone could be cut by $17 million this year. âÄúAt this period of time, especially, we need to continue a focus on creating opportunity in the city while navigating through tough waters,âÄù he said. âÄúIâÄôve shown I can do it, and I want to do it again.âÄù Rybak, who was a strong supporter of President Barack Obama t hroughout his campaign, plans on using his connections in Washington to bring stimulus dollars to Minneapolis. Rybak announced a new initiative last week to use funds from a federal stimulus to launch an initiative to create dozens of green jobs by training workers to weatherize 800 homes in Minneapolis. âÄúThe old way of doing things has literally run out of gas,âÄù he said. âÄúAmerica needs to make a dramatic shift into an economy that is less dependent on oil and more connected to the place we live.âÄù Barbara Johnson, President of the City Council, said that Rybak has experience dealing with budget issues and has helped to pay off about $85 million in debt as mayor of Minneapolis. âÄúBut his best quality is his engaging personality,âÄù she said. âÄúHe pulls people along with his enthusiasm for Minneapolis and continues to see that it is a great city.âÄù