Rybak looks ahead to his last year as mayor

For his final year in office, R.T. Rybak says he’ll focus on safety and development.

Rybak looks ahead to his last year as mayor

Brian Arola

In his final year as mayor of Minneapolis, R.T. Rybak will focus his attention on public safety and development projects.

Speaking in his office last week, Rybak outlined the agenda for his final year in office.

The three-term mayor will not seek re-election for what he said is his “dream job,” but he still plans to be busy this year.

“We’ve got 350 days left [in office], and we have a whole lot we want to get done,” he said.

Rybak said there aren’t many new additions to his agenda this year because much of it involves finishing ongoing projects.

Making Minneapolis a “safe place to call home” is near the top of his priorities, he said. This includes preventing youth violence and looking at gun legislation at the local and state level.

Rybak spent time in Washington, D.C., last week to support President Barack Obama’s proposals on gun control.

“Every single ‘State of the City’ I’ve done … I say the most important work is to make this a safe place to call home,” Rybak said.

Building projects are also high on Rybak’s list. He said he will be focused on development projects like the Target Center’s renovation and the new Vikings’ stadium — even though he won’t be mayor when they are completed.

“We want people to build around the new stadium,” he said. “We don’t want this to be another Metrodome where the stadium wound up in a lonely sea of parking lots.”

Rybak also has green issues on his agenda, including the Minneapolis Climate Action Plan, which seeks to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas pollution.

“We have serious climate issues, not the least of which is we can’t get snow in Minnesota,” Rybak said.

City Councilman Cam Gordon said he’s looking forward to working with the mayor on environmental initiatives.

Rybak said in 2001 he ran for mayor on a sustainability platform, a promise Gordon said the mayor has kept.

“Particularly in terms of environmental issues and sustainability, I think that’s been a consistent theme of his,” Gordon said.

Three council members have expressed interest in running for mayor this fall, which Rybak said could make pushing his agenda more difficult than usual.

“It will be more complicated, but it means it’s more important I spend a lot more time moving an agenda forward,” he said.

Though the field isn’t set, Rybak said he would offer any candidates advice if they want it.

More than a decade

Since election in 2001, Rybak has had many accomplishments to be proud of, said John Stiles, the mayor’s spokesman.

Stiles pointed out that when Rybak became mayor 12 years ago, “there were mounds of debt.”

Since then, Stiles said Rybak has repaid debt, restored the city’s AAA bond rating and fixed a broken pension system.

Rybak, Stiles said, has also worked with other levels of government and outside organizations to make the city more bike and transit friendly.

“[His measures on transit] have attributed to the vitality of Minneapolis, the sense that Minneapolis is an exciting and growing city,” Stiles said.

Rybak’s position within the Democratic Party has risen over the last 12 years.

He was an early supporter of Obama’s 2008 campaign and was named vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee in 2011.

Rybak’s next step is still uncertain, but he joked last week that he’d likely have his pick of whatever cabinet position he wanted after he finishes up his final term as mayor.

He said it’s important that he leave the city in a good position for future leaders.