Mayor Rybak, Atlanta Mayor Reed Place Friendly Wager as Lynx Head to WNBA Finals

Minnesota apples vs.Georgia peaches at stake as Minnesota Lynx meet Atlanta Dream to decide national championship

September 30, 2011 (MINNEAPOLIS) — Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed today placed a friendly wager on the outcome of the WNBA championship series between the Minneapolis-based Minnesota Lynx and the Atlanta Dream. The best-of-five series begins Sunday night at the City of Minneapolis-owned Target Center.

The mayors agreed to put up a season’s worth of fresh produce from local farms. Mayor Rybak is wagering SweeTango® apples from Pepin Heights Orchards in Lake City,Minnesota against Mayor Reed’s wager of peaches from Farmer D Organics Garden Center in Atlanta.

Mayor Rybak said, “The Lynx are just three wins away from bringing the championship home to Minneapolis, and we as a city are united in cheering them on as they close out an exciting and historic season. And we’ve had good luck with SweeTango apples so far, too, so I’m sticking with them as well.”

“Mayor Rybak knows that there is more than one way to skin a cat, so we’ll put up our peaches against their apples any day,” said Mayor Kasim Reed. “The Atlanta Dream are on a hot streak right now, winning all but three games since August 13. They have just three more wins before they bring home the championship.

“The city of Atlantacongratulates our Dream Team for being the 2011 Eastern Conference Champions. We are with them all the way,” Mayor Reed continued.

Mayor Rybak countered, “If Mayor Reed thinks he’s going to get to taste our apples, he’s really Dreaming.”

Mayor Rybak won a basket of Arizona hot sauces in his friendly wager with Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon last week when the Minnesota Lynx beat the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA Western Conference finals.

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Mourning youth we have lost and unlearning the culture of violence

I know that I join all of Minneapolis in mourning the terrible losses of three young people our city in the past weeks. Quantell Braxton (age 14), Ray’Jon Gomez (age 13) and Juwon Osborne (age 16) were murdered by people wielding guns. Our deepest sympathies go out to their family, friends and communities. With their whole lives yet ahead of them, they should not have died.

In the wake of these events, police and school resource officers are reaching out to youth and community members to listen, counsel and educate. Police officers are also actively enforcing curfew to help keep youth safe. Anyone with information about these crimes or other violent acts, including ones that they are afraid may be committed, should call (612) 692-TIPS (8477) immediately.

While Minneapolis Police do their jobs and work to solve the murders of Quantell, Rae’Jon and Jawon, we must all ask ourselves one extremely important question: Who is arming our kids? Where are the guns coming from that are hurting our communities and injuring and killing our residents? And who is putting them in the hands of our children?

One of the four goals of the Blueprint for Action: Preventing Youth Violence in Minneapolis is to “Unlearn the culture of violence in our community.” Inevitably, young people will disagree with each other, but it is our goal that young people inMinneapolis learn how to defuse violence and walk away from it with their heads held high. Of course, we know that disagreements among young people sometimes turn into fights — but when a gun gets in the mix of those fights, everything changes for the worse, often in one terrible instant.

It is the responsibility of all of us to make sure that our children are not armed. It is the responsibility of all of us to help our children make the best choices they can about where and with whom they are spending their time. And it is the responsibility of all of us to hold up our youth who are headed in the right direction and the strong, loving communities that support them.

Fortunately, we already know how to do this work: it’s central to our youth-violence prevention efforts and the Blueprint that unifies, frames and coordinates it. 

Even in this difficult time, I’m encouraged by some promising, upstream interventions taking place this year that are helping our youth and our communities unlearn the culture of violence. I’d like to share a few examples with you: 

  • Summer 612, made possible with the support of the Minneapolis Foundation, is directly engaging 1,000Minneapolis youth ages 10–17 with youth-led micro-grant projects in documentary film, visual arts, basketball and performance. The youths’ projects are designed to allow them to reflect on the culture of violence and how we can unlearn it. In addition, youth are connected to professionals in different industries who help them develop unique job skills while interacting with professionals in a specific industry. These talented youth unveiled their projects at a Summer 612 showcase on September 22 that drew over 200 people to the Central Library. 
  • The North 4 Project works with youth ages 14-21 who live in the four North Minneapolisneighborhoods most affected by crime. It provides intensive job-readiness training, subsidized work opportunities and on-going case management to ensure that participants remain focused on securing permanent employment. North 4 will continue through May 2012, thanks to the efforts of Representative Keith Ellison. 
  • Bike Cops for Kids expanded this year to eight officers on the North Side, Northeast Minneapolis and in the Phillips, Lyndale, Central and CARAG neighborhoods ofS outh Minneapolis. With support from the Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, these bike-riding police officers, who serve as school resource officers during the school year, spend the summer connecting kids to trusted adults once child at a time, building on their existing relationships and sparking new ones.
  • School Resource Officers work tirelessly to ensure the well-being of students, staff and visitors in the Minneapolis Public Schools. They are there during times of tragedy to listen, counsel and connect youth quickly to needed services. 

Working together, this community has done a lot to keep our children safe: because of our work, the number of youth suspects in violent crime has declined by 66 percent since 2008. I thank you for that work, but we have more to do. I’m asking every to commit or recommit today to connecting our youth to trusted adults, intervening at the first sign that our youth are at risk of violence, restoring those who have gone down the wrong path and unlearning the culture of violence in our community. Working together, even — or especially — when we are in mourning, we can do this.

October 3: One Minneapolis, One Read

I’m excited to announce One Minneapolis, One Read, in which all of Minneapolis will read the same book — “The Grace of Silence” by National Public Radio host and Minneapolis native Michele Norris — and to invite you to a conversation with author Michele Norris on October 3 at the Guthrie Theater.

In “The Grace of Silence,” Michele describes the Norrises’ experience as the first black family on their block in South Minneapolis.  The book will spark many conversations about the complexities of race, family, and neighborhood history.

Minnesota Public Radio host Kerri Miller will lead the conversation with Michele Norris at 7:00 p.m. at the Guthrie Theater on Monday, October 3. Tickets to the event are only $10 for general admission and only $5 for seniors, students and people with limited income. I expect the event to be lively, thought-provoking, not to mention packed: so call the Guthrie at (612) 377-2224 or go here to get your tickets today!

The inspiration for One Minneapolis, One Read came from a group of Minneapolis residents who began meeting after conversation about a proposed dog park highlighted a racial divide in the community. One of the core leaders in this effort, called Building Bridges, is Michele Norris’ aunt Doris Christopher. 

I also want to acknowledge and thank the Minneapolis Foundation for their support of One Minneapolis, One Read.

You can find the One Minneapolis, One Read event schedule, information and resources at www.OneMinneapolisOneRead.com.  And please follow One Minneapolis, One Read on Facebook and Twitter.

Reading and discussing together a powerful story about our city’s history is a very exciting project. I hope you will join us as we read “The Grace of Silence” together and talk about it with Michele Norris on Monday, October 3.

Mayor Rybak, Phoenix Mayor Gordon Place Friendly Wager over Lynx Playoff Series

Minnesota apples vs. Arizona hot sauce at stake as Minnesota Lynx meet Phoenix Mercury in second round of WNBA playoffs

September 22, 2011 (MINNEAPOLIS) — Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon today placed a friendly wager on the outcome of the WNBA Western Conference finals between the Minneapolis-based Minnesota Lynx and the Phoenix Mercury. The series begins tonight at the City of Minneapolis-owned Target Center.

Mayor Rybak is putting up SweeTango® apples from Pepin Heights Orchards inLake City,Minnesota against a basket from Phoenix Mayor Gordon with Arizona-made hot sauces and salsas.

Mayor Rybak said, “We know it’s going to be a good series: these two teams played the highest-scoring game in WNBA history against each other this season, but the Lynx are tough competitors and I’m confident that Minnesota’s women hoopsters will carry the day.

“I look forward to tryingArizona’s best hot sauces and I’m only sorry for Mayor Gordon that he won’t get to taste our delicious Minnesota apples.”

“Minnesota won an impressive number of basketball games this year, but they need two more and won’t get them,” said Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon. “Phoenix has the edge because Phoenix has the Mercury.  I’ll make that bet all day long — while eating their wonderful apples.”

No property-tax increase for 2012

Today, I proposed a City budget for 2012 with no property-tax increase.

That’s right: no property-tax increase. We will raise the same amount of property-tax dollars that we raised last year. No more.

My budget also meets two urgent needs: improving our streets and closing the racial jobs gap. And it continues to fund the public safety that we deserve, with no layoffs in the police department and no elimination of firefighter positions.

When I think about the iconic image of Minneapolis, I don’t think about the Mississippi Riverfront or Minnehaha Falls, as great as those places are: I think about our miles and miles of middle-class neighborhoods. Minneapolis is nearly unique among American cities in the continued strength of neighborhoods like these.

I grew up in one of those neighborhoods, and I know that what the people who live there expect of City government is pretty straightforward: they want a safe, livable neighborhood in a vital city with good public services and affordable property taxes, and they want their leaders to work cooperatively and pragmatically. In short, they want a City That Works.

To build a City That Works, a city government needs to do two things well: control spending and taxes and make the right investments, even when the state and federal governments are in fiscal turmoil. That’s exactly what my budget for next year does.

Minneapolis is a City That Works because we manage our resources well. We have a 10-year record of fiscal responsibility that includes:

  • budgeting without relying on gimmicks or shifts,
  • spending 8% less than we did 10 years ago,
  • bringing down the number of full-time positions by 10%,
  • paying down $183 million in debt,
  • and restoring our AAA credit rating.

I’m proud of this record of responsibility — and few other governments can match it.

But the blemish on that record has been property taxes. They’re simply too high and we’ve worked hard to hold the line on them.

The first way that we’ve held the line has been by watching our own spending. It will rise next year by only one percent — and that’s after our healthcare costs will rise by four percent.

We’ve also fought against short-sighted cuts by the State Legislature to Local Government Aid, proposed a new funding mechanism for Target Center and secured a merger of our closed pensions with the State system.

As a result of this hard work, I am proposing no increase in the property-tax levy in 2012.

Holding property taxes flat next year comes at the cost of many, many cuts around City government. But it’s all the more important to make them and not pass a property-tax increase because the Legislature very quietly passed on a direct tax increase of its own when it eliminated the Market Value Homestead Credit. Many Minneapolis homeowners will see their taxes rise as a result of this move, which I applaud Governor Dayton and Minneapolis legislators for opposing.

Minneapolis is also a City That Works because we invest in the common ground that helps everyone succeed. This has several components:

  • I propose expanding the City’s street-improvement program by 60% over the next five years. This program will lead to better streets, fewer potholes and fewer car repairs — and it is only possible because we have paid down debt and restored our credit rating.
  • We have brought down violent crime, including youth violence, to record lows, and I will continue to fund the Police Department with no layoffs.
  • In addition, my budget proposes no layoffs or position eliminations of firefighters, though we must keep controlling overtime costs.

Minneapolis is also a City That Works because we invest in putting people to work. We’ve shown that we know where to invest to help grow the economy — but shamefully, Minneapolis still has one of the largest racial jobs gaps of any large city in the country.

  • Therefore, I am proposing a new “One Minneapolis” initiative to train and place hard-to-employ residents—particularly from the African-American community, where the gap is largest — in good, growing, green-economy jobs.

Successful cities — great cities — know how to reinvent themselves. Minneapolis was once just a village on the edge of the prairie that became an international economic powerhouse and the Milling Capital of the World, and now is reinventing itself once again.

City government can’t do it alone, but when we manage our resources well, invest in the common ground that helps everyone succeed and invest in creating jobs for everyone in our economy — in short, when we are a City that Works — we will help our city meet the needs of a new world.

P.S. To read the text of my budget speech, “A City That Works,” go here. To view the slides that accompanied the speech, go here.

Mayor Rybak, Council Retain Four Firefighters by Accelerating Permanent 2012 Budget Cuts

Action taken today raises to 35 the number of firefighter jobs saved from State LGA cuts, while maintaining budget integrity

September 2, 2011 (MINNEAPOLIS) — Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and the City Council today unanimously approved a package of permanent budget cuts to keep on the job four of the 10 firefighters who recently received layoff notices as a result of the State Legislature’s most recent cut in Local Government Aid to Minneapolis.

Today’s action raises to 35 the number of firefighter jobs that the Mayor and Council have saved from the Legislature’s LGA cut. Two weeks ago, the City Council approved Mayor Rybak’s plan to use contingency dollars to save 31 of 44 firefighter jobs that would have been eliminated as a result of the mid-year, $23-million LGA cut.

The Mayor and Council approved a package of permanent budget cuts to currently vacant positions. Mayor Rybak will propose eliminating these positions in the upcoming 2012 budget. The funds saved by permanently eliminating these positions now will be transferred to the Fire Department, which will allow the department to keep four of the 10 laid-off firefighters on the job through the end of 2012.

“Today we reached a common-sense compromise that saves even more firefighter jobs simply by making permanent cuts now that I will propose for 2012,” said Mayor R.T. Rybak. “I proposed this compromise because Minneapolis firefighters are among our most valuable City employees in a workforce full of valuable employees. We have invested significantly in their success and their commitment to public safety and we want as many of them on the job as we can sustain financially.

“This compromise maintains the integrity of our budget while continuing to solve the problem that the Legislature passed on to us,” Mayor Rybak continued.

Council Member Betsy Hodges, chair of the Ways and Means/Budget Committee, said, “This is a fiscally responsible compromise, not a one-time gimmick that blows another hole in next year’s budget: it helps us to hold the line on property taxes next year while allowing us to keep more firefighters on the job now. The positions that we permanently eliminated today in order to keep four more firefighters are ones that department heads have told us they are willing to sacrifice while still providing our residents with the other high-quality services that they deserve.”

Council Member Don Samuels, chair of the Public Safety, Civil Rights and Health Committee, said, “All Minneapolis residents appreciate our firefighters’ dedication and sacrifice. The decision to lay off some of them was not made lightly, but was forced by the Legislature. I’m pleased that we are able today to keep several of them on the job and hope that all will soon return. I extend my thanks to all the departments that have sacrificed important positions to maintain this important priority, and place my full confidence in our firefighters to keep protecting our city.”

Fire Chief Alex Jackson said, “Even after the Fire Department’s share of reductions to the City’s workforce in recent years, we have maintained rescue, emergency and fire protection that is unparalleled in Minnesota, with good response times. Minneapolis firefighters are there for everyone who visits, works or lives here, whenever they need us and regardless of where they pay taxes.”

On July 21, following the enactment of the Legislature’s LGA cut, Mayor Rybak directed City departments to implement the additional cuts to the 2011 budget that the City Council had already approved in the event that Minneapolis received less than its promised amount of LGA. These cuts were the last cuts to the 2011 budget that had already eliminated 80 full-time positions in nearly every City department, with the exception of Fire and Police.

On August 9, Mayor Rybak proposed using contingency dollars to mitigate the effect of the mid-year cut on the Fire Department. Without that level of contingency funds, the Fire Department would have had to eliminate 44 firefighter positions. The Mayor’s proposal cut that number down to 13, saving 31 firefighter jobs.

On August 19, Mayor Rybak vetoed a Council action to use additional one-time dollars to temporarily plug the permanent gap that remained in the Fire Department’s budget following the Legislature’s LGA cut. He did so because the action was financially unsustainable, as it simply pushed an even larger budget hole onto the upcoming 2012 budget.

Today, the Council today failed on an 8–5 vote to override the Mayor’s August 19 veto. Nine votes were required to override. Voting to uphold Mayor Rybak’s veto were Council Members Lisa Goodman, chair of the Community Development Committee; Betsy Hodges; Robert Lilligren, Council Vice President; John Quincy; and Don Samuels.

The same Council Members then sponsored today’s action to save four additional firefighter jobs from the LGA cut, which passed on a 13–0 vote.

A full chronology of the City’s 2011 budget, LGA and LGA-related cuts is below.

August 16, 2010: Mayor Rybak proposes a 2011 budget that eliminates over 80 full-time positions in the City ofMinneapolis. Even with those cuts, the proposed budget assumes that State ofMinnesota will uphold current law and deliver on its certified commitment of $87.5 million in Local Government Aid toMinneapolis in 2011.

September 16, 2010: Mayor Rybak proposes a waterfall of budget cuts that the City will make if the State ofMinnesota reneges on current law and cutsMinneapolis’ LGA. The cuts are staggered in the order in which they would be made, depending on the size of the overall LGA cut. Near the bottom of the list are cut to the Fire and Police Departments.

December 14, 2010: Mayor Rybak and City Council approve the 2011 budget that eliminates over 80 full-time positions at the City — with the exception of the Fire and Police Departments. These departments benefit from the use of one-time dollars to forestall any cuts. However, cuts to those departments figure on the modified waterfall of potential cuts that the Mayor and Council also approve in the event that the State fails to deliver promised LGA toMinneapolis.

At a public hearing, scores of property taxpayers tell the Mayor and City Council that their property taxes are too high and their 2011 tax increases too big.

Winter 2011: Mayor Rybak holds a series of property-tax forums in the neighborhoods most heavily affected by property tax increases.

February 15, 2011: Governor Mark Dayton releases his State budget with no cuts to Local Government Aid.

March 12, 2011: Majority Republicans in the Minnesota House of Representatives propose not just cutting, but eliminating LGA — but only for the economic engines ofMinneapolis,Saint Paul andDuluth. Mayor Rybak calls Republicans’ proposal a “job killer” and a “middle-class tax increase.”

April 1, 2011: Mayor Rybak, along with Mayor Chris Coleman ofSaint Paul and Mayor Don Ness ofDuluth, writes to Republicans legislative leaders to call attention to the disastrous economic impacts of legislators’ attacks onMinnesota’s core cities.

May 24, 2011: Governor Dayton vetoes the Legislature’s tax bill that eliminates all Local Government Aid to Minneapolis, Saint Paul and Duluth, saying that the bill “makes unnecessary and geographically imbalanced cuts to local government aids.”

July 1, 2011: State government shutdown begins.

July 20, 2011: State government shutdown ends with the Legislature’s passing on a cut of $23 million in LGA toMinneapolis.

July 21, 2011: In conformity with the 2011 budget that the Council passed on December 14, 2010, Mayor Rybak announces that with the Legislature’s cut, the full “waterfall” of cuts that Council approved will be now implemented. This includes a cut of $1.45 million to the Fire Department — which, because the cut comes 60 percent of the way through the City’s budget year, is the equivalent of 44 firefighter positions.

The Fire and Police Departments become the last City departments to take a cut in the 2011 budget.

August 9, 2011: Mayor Rybak announces a plan to mitigate the effect of the Legislature’s LGA cut to the Fire Department by using $1.1 million in contingency funds, which will bring the number of position eliminations in the Fire Department necessary to compensate for the Legislature’s LGA cut from 44 to 13. Ten of the 13 positions eliminated will come through layoffs, while the remainder will come from mandatory retirements.

August 19, 2011: Mayor Rybak vetoes a City Council action to fill the Legislature’s permanent LGA cut to the Fire Department with temporary one-time dollars, saying that he is “strongly opposed” comparing them to “budget shifts and gimmicks that the state and federal government have used to address their budget challenges.”

Council Members who vote for the action nonetheless describe it as “not a good motion” and “a terrible way to do business.”