Honoring Mr. Raymond Thomas ``R.T.’’ Rybakby Representative Keith Ellison
Posted on 2013-12-19
in the house of representatives
Thursday, December 19, 2013
Mr. ELLISON. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize and honor the
contributions of R.T. Rybak to the city of Minneapolis during his 12-
year tenure as mayor, and to applaud his leadership in areas from
education to government accountability to economic opportunity. Mayor
Rybak has been an outstanding leader, a great public servant and a
R.T. Rybak, a Minneapolis native, began his distinguished career as a journalist for the Minneapolis Tribune. While working for various media outlets--including the Twin Cities Reader, Minnesota Public Radio, and Public Radio International--he was also an organizer who ran political campaigns and engaged in community activism. He campaigned for airport noise mitigation, sponsoring the famous ``Pajama Protest'' of 1999. Mayor Rybak's tactics have been inventive and inclusive, and his openness has made him a strong ally of communities often left out of the political process.
Mayor Rybak confronted a city with serious challenges: an increasing budget deficit, a stark achievement gap, pension issues, and public safety concerns. He went to work immediately, making difficult decisions to adjust taxes and budget priorities. Under his leadership, Minneapolis cut spending by 16 percent and paid down $350 million of the city's debt, in spite of repeated state-level funding cuts. Faced with crises such as the 2007 collapse of the I-35W bridge, and the 2009 Great Recession, Mayor Rybak helped the city recover with poise and energy. He was a strong advocate for Minneapolis residents, while also using these opportunities to bolster mass transit infrastructure and to further diversify our economy. Minneapolis has recovered all 10,000 jobs lost in the recession, and added an additional 5,000. The city now ranks first in the country for its low unemployment rate, and is less susceptible to future economic fluctuations.
Minneapolis is safer now than it has been in years. Most crimes have fallen to levels not seen in 35 years.
The people of Minneapolis are also more connected and informed. City- wide wireless internet, digital access to government information and services, and a forum for viewing city goals have made Minneapolis more open and accessible.
Mayor Rybak's advocacy for North Minneapolis, in particular, has been long overdue on the city's agenda. He increased city investment in addressing persistent gaps in education, housing, and economic opportunity that have faced North Minneapolis for decades. He championed programs that trained residents and placed them into good jobs, working with businesses to create sustainable, meaningful employment. He reduced foreclosures, and used city-owned land to promote affordable green housing. Mayor Rybak has laid the foundation for revitalizing North Minneapolis, and I am confident that our city's future leaders will follow his lead.
Mayor Rybak has also tackled the significant challenges facing Minneapolis schools. He started Minneapolis Promise, which provides young people with free college and career counseling and high-quality summer jobs. Since 2004, the STEP-UP internship program has given real- world job experience to over 18,000 Minneapolis youth. Rybak has led the effort to close one of the nation's widest achievement gaps by connecting schools, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and businesses to work together for our children's futures. This will be one of the lasting achievements he leaves with Minneapolis, as he continues the fight to close the achievement gap as the next Chief Executive of Generation Next.
Minneapolis will always be indebted to Mayor Rybak. From the balanced books of the city's treasurer, to the youth who can aspire to greater opportunity than their parents, to the residents headed to a secure job after months or years out of work, his achievements have improved Minneapolis and I thank him for his tireless service to our community.