Inaugural Address of the Mayor of the City of Minneapolis R.T. Rybak
Tuesday, January 3, 2006
Four years ago we came together in this rotunda to celebrate a new era in City Hall. We stood in the same place but in many ways, both good and bad, it was a different world.
Four years ago the Sears Building, which has come roaring back to life, was vacant and four years ago construction had just begun on the Hiawatha Light Rail Line that has now changed so much of our city. A promising young woman named Tyesha Edwards was on her way to Powderhorn School and a police officer named Melissa Schmidt was patrolling the halls of Horn Towers. And four years ago at that celebration, sitting up there in the balcony where we have left two vacant chairs today, were Senator Paul and Sheila Wellstone.
It was the wake of 9/11 and we were only beginning to understand what that tragedy would mean to our economy, our liberty and our freedoms. We stood before you as a new mayor and a city council with seven new members, ready for the future but unsure what it would bring. And it brought far greater challenges than we expected. I believe the work that has taken place in this building in these past few years will pass the test of time. I believe history will see that as each new challenge came our way, we found the strength to resist short-term gain to instead make the tougher structural choices that would pay off over time.
We did not try to hide the choices from our citizens and the people of Minneapolis rewarded us by sending us back here with their trust.
We have shown that public officials can be public stewards. We have made it possible for the next generation to inherit the hopes of the future, not the unsolved problems of the past.
The values that led us through tough times should always be at the center of our work. They are also the values that have laid the groundwork for an ambitious agenda that will allow Minneapolis to rightfully claim its place as the Great American City of our time. And we should settle for nothing less.
Our ambitious agenda starts with the most basic of principals: local government is first and foremost about those basic core services that touch and transform people’s lives every day. Public safety and the other core services come first and we will deliver them with efficiency and in deep partnership with our citizens.
We believe in government, and we will run this government well, but we need to run it for a reason. This government will deliver a good value to our citizens, and we will do that by being a government with values.
Those values are clearer to me today than ever. Having led this city for four years, and campaigned through it twice, I know that three key values underlie all of our work. We must:
- Close the gaps between haves and have-nots.
- Reweave the urban fabric.
- And lay the groundwork for the next generation.
The first of those values -- closing the gaps -- is the most important because the story of this period in Minneapolis cannot be a tale of two cities. While billions of dollars of investment are lifting most of this city, parts of Minneapolis are falling further behind. Crime is worse, unemployment is higher, heath and education disparities are growing. Where there is disproportionate need, we need to make disproportionate investment. We have proven in the Phillips neighborhood, where a once-distressed area is now creating more jobs than any other part of the state, that investment in areas in need in Minneapolis pays off tenfold.
Our second core value should be to recognize that we are not just here to grow the City but to weave it together; to restore the fabric that differentiates a great city from just another housing development, office park or shopping center. The New Minneapolis will not be about just housing or jobs or transportation in isolation. The New Minneapolis will be organic, an integrated collection of sustainable urban villages with quality jobs and stores within walking distance of our homes. Where transit supports our commercial corridors and the economy grows because we are stewards of the greatest natural environment of any city in America. To reweave the urban fabric we have to govern beyond the silos that often isolate our work. If we do it right we can create a way of life in Minneapolis unmatched by any other city in America.
The third key value should be to aggressively lay the ground work for the next generation to succeed. Minneapolis’ next generation truly needs us now. Too many lack hope, too many lack purpose, too many lack strong families, and too many have responded to all that by turning to crime. Over the next few weeks I will be part of a series of announcements that will bring together the broad partnerships we need to give our children the direction and resources they need to succeed. As we do that we need to remember that our kids create challenges, but they are also our greatest asset, and that is especially true of their diversity. No doubt it is more complex to raise a generation when they come from so many different cultures but we need to join our partners in the business and civic community in carrying this message: as Minnesota struggles to compete in an increasingly global economy, this state’s single greatest asset is the children of the next generation of Minneapolis. Children who already speak more than 80 languages, come from all over the world, and spend every day crossing cultural boundaries.
So these are our values: put public safety and other core services first; close the gaps between haves and have-nots; reweave the urban fabric; and lay the groundwork for the next generation.
None of this will be easy. We will once again be governing in a period of diminished resources. But within this City Hall, where so much of our recent work has been about limits and scarcity and sacrifice, we also cannot forget to dream.
This city of big dreams had the vision to create the greatest urban park system in America. This is the city where small riverfront mills grew into corporate giants. Where the dream of starting a regional theater sparked Minneapolis’ cultural explosion, helped drive our creative economy, and became a national leading institution. This city has risen above the fear that grips too much of our county, as a place where immigrants and the GLBT community are fusing together cultures that together are better than anything we create on our own.
This city on the edge of the prairie has always looked to the horizon for inspiration.
Four years ago I asked you to take a walk around the city I love. Today, I ask you to once again take that walk with me, only this time, close your eyes and imagine it a few years in the future:
Imagine a city where we can walk safely down every single street and where prosperity reaches every corner. Imagine a city where world-class schools, parks, libraries and cultural institutions are integral parts of our daily life. Where you can take a streetcar or a bike or even walk to great jobs and stores nearby. Imagine a city where every kid grows up knowing they can succeed.
One city. One people. Woven together. Working today for tomorrow.
Now open your eyes and roll up your sleeves. It’s time to build the New Minneapolis.
Last updated Sep. 27, 2011