Thank you. Now let’s get to work.

No matter what I’ve done or will ever do, the greatest professional joy I could have is serving the city I love. When I go around town, I still get goose bumps when I think: I’m the mayor of the great city of Minneapolis.

We have gotten a tremendous amount done together: we’ve made tough choices to put the city on strong financial ground; made our streets safer, and paved a lot of them; put thousands of kids on the right track; brought 1,400 Allina jobs to the formerly vacant Sears building, sparked small businesses at the Global Market and hundreds more across Minneapolis; and much, much more.

But doing this job in the way I’ve chosen to do it involves some personal sacrifices, and right now, I owe it to those around me, and to myself, to get a bit more balance in my life. I also think that after 12 years, the city will benefit from a fresh perspective. So I will not run for a fourth term.

This has been one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made, because we are in what I believe is our most productive term, and I have never had more fun doing the work.

I also believe that Minneapolis is on the brink of becoming one of the world’s great cities. I want to help make that happen, but as I’ve thought about it in personal terms, I realized that I still can — because Minneapolis is filled with private citizens who do big and small things every day to make this a better place. I’ve been one of them before and I’ll be one again.

Whether or not I’m working as mayor, I’m going to be working for Minneapolis. And I want to assure people that I’m going to stay very involved in keeping Minneapolis moving in the right direction.

In the meantime, our team has a year left and we plan to make the most of it. We will sprint across the finish line and expect everyone around us to do the same.

In early January, we will lay out an aggressive agenda for 2013, expand on it in the State of the City in the spring, deliver our final budget in August, and work to pass it in December.

You can expect our work plan to include:

  • helping Chief Harteau reform the police department, and expanding our work to prevent youth violence and gun violence;
  • helping Superintendent Johnson and our partners improve our schools and eliminate the achievement gap;
  • expanding the Minneapolis Promise, especially the STEP-UP jobs program;
  • improving north Minneapolis, including helping the Northside Achievement Zone, building new Green Homes, and working with Hennepin County to reimagine Penn Avenue North;
  • starting to redevelop the new stadium district;
  • developing a renovation plan for the Target Center;
  • designing a new Nicollet Mall with a streetcar, and a strategy for finally reopening Nicollet and Lake;
  • and working with the Legislature on transit, Local Government Aid and reforming property taxes.

I believe in giving the taxpayers a good value for the dollar, so in the next year, Minneapolis will get about four years’ worth of work out of me.

So fasten your seatbelts. This lame duck isn’t quacking yet.

Let’s get to work.

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Turning despair into action to end gun violence

We can’t know what it is like for a small Connecticut community to come to terms with the mass shootings last week, particularly when so many of the victims were small children. But here in Minneapolis, the mass shootings at Accent Printing last September, other violent acts involving children, and so much more gun violence have taught us tragic lessons about how to try to bring peace to victims’ loved ones.

We can’t know what it was like for President Obama to stand before the families and the country when he appealed to address this insane violence on a deeper level. But sadly, I know very well what it is like for him to break down as he talked about violence as a leader and also a father.

Here’s one thing we can know: If we see the aftermath of Newtown as one more moment when a violent act spurs no action — if we resign ourselves that nothing will happen — then, in fact, nothing will.

The only way I know of to make any sense of this senselessness is to turn every bit of our anxiety into action.

No one thing will stop inhuman acts of violence — if there was a single action that could suddenly make everything better, people would have done that a long time ago.

But in Minneapolis over the past several years, we have met tragedy with action of many different kinds. Much hard work is already underway here on many fronts. Rather than despairing that “nothing ever happens,” let’s finish this work and resolve to do even more.

Here are just some of the things that we are doing in Minneapolis to fight gun violence.

Regional gun summit. For nearly a year, my office has been working with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett to put together a regional gun summit in Minneapolis that will take place in early January. We are bringing together mayors and police chiefs from Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Midwest to share best practices for reducing gun violence, build partnerships and design new initiatives to stop the proliferation of gun violence and illegal guns. It will mark the first time that this broad cross-section of chiefs and policy makers has gathered to tackle this issue face to face.

Guns know no boundaries: nor should we, when it comes to stopping gun violence.

Changing federal law. I have been a longtime member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the organization founded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and co-chaired by Boston Mayor Tom Menino, and I have worked with them on many of the national issues that we need to fix in Congress. Among the ones on our agenda right now are:

I’m encouraged that President Obama has tapped Vice President Biden to lead policy changes like these. At the same time, this work isn’t new to mayors: these are changes for which we’ve been fighting for years.

None of these common-sense actions at the federal level would do a single thing to limit the right to hunt or legitimately own a gun. But together, they would save many, many lives.

Youth violence prevention. For five years now, scores of partners in Minneapolis have been cooperating on a multi-faceted, public-health approach to youth-violence prevention that has gotten real results, including that from 2006–11, the number of incidents involving youth and guns dropped 66%.

We’ve received national attention for this work. Last year, Attorney General Eric Holder recognized our success, and last week, I joined other Minneapolis officials in Washington at a meeting of the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, which the Obama administration selected Minneapolis to join earlier this year. We got together with representatives of nine other cities roll up our sleeves, share ideas and strategize about how we can work together, including on preventing gun violence.

This is good, but there is more to do. I have asked Minneapolis attorney Andy Luger to conduct a review of our last five years of youth-violence prevention in order to tell us how we can improve and what other best practices we can incorporate.

Tracing guns. Every time that someone uses a gun to commit a crime in Minneapolis, the first question I ask is, “Where did the gun come from?” As a result, Minneapolis police work not only to solve the crime and bring the perpetrator to justice, but to trace how the gun came to be involved in a crime in the first place. We are also trying to answer the questions, “Who is arming our communities?” and especially, “Who is arming our kids?” So far, this work points to the need to restrict so-called straw purchases — when someone illegally buys a gun for someone else who is legally barred from doing so — and to require people to report to law enforcement when their guns are lost or stolen.

Partnership. The City of Minneapolis can’t do all this work on its own: we partner closely with other law-enforcement agencies, and with the community, to try to eliminate gun violence. On the law-enforcement side, we have had strong partnerships with the office of United States Attorney B. Todd Jones, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the office of Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman. Our partnership has focused in particular on getting the most serious illegal-gun offenders off the street, and our efforts have met with success. And in the community, we have been joined by so many great partners who are committed to fighting gun violence and making our entire city safer.

All this work, while productive, highlights that there is more to do, and we are committed to doing more. At the same time, there are broader cultural and political forces that also bear on it from outside.

Mental-health reform. The shootings in Newtown, Connecticut and at Accent Signage in Minneapolis — like so many more of the violent acts that we have seen — involved people who were facing serious mental-health challenges. We cannot expect the change we need unless we significantly reform a deeply disconnected mental-health system. This fact has been chillingly clear to me as mayor since the day 11 years ago when our police were involved in the shooting of a man who was wielding a machete down Franklin Avenue. But cities don’t have the resources to tackle mental-health systems change on our own, so we need to work across boundaries to reform it, put resources behind it, and help people get the help they need.

Culture of violence. One of the four principles of Minneapolis’ approach to youth-violence prevention — and perhaps the most fundamental — is that we must “unlearn the culture of violence in our community.”

This means many things: how we raise our children as parents and a community, how we end domestic violence, how we treat alcohol and drug dependency, how we promote gun safety, and so much more. Above all, how we build a culture that says of violence, enough is enough.

Another piece of unlearning the culture of violence is changing how we create and consume media in which violence plays a prominent role.

In the aftermath of the shooting in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado earlier this year, I heard a movie executive say how tragic it was because, according to him, movie theaters are refuges where people can get away from the violence of real life. When I heard that, I thought, has he seen any movies lately? We do not and cannot escape violence in the theater, any more than we do or can on television or in video games. We are being inundated by media that often are dominated by hideous levels of extreme, almost unthinkable violence. We must ask ourselves, what do we expect to happen when our popular culture bombards us with a never-ending diet of it, and we consume it? And how much worse does it make it for people already facing mental-health challenges?

Changing the ways our culture creates, and we consume, media in which violence is prominent won’t by itself lead us to unlearn the culture of violence. It won’t by itself ensure that nothing like Newtown ever happens again. But it is nonetheless a change that we must demand of others and ourselves.

A Better Future

Last Sunday night, I spoke to Shereen and Sami Rahamim, the wife and son of Reuven Rahamim, the late owner of Accent Printing. Sami was on his way to meet his sister Miya in New York City, to join a gathering of family members of shooting victims that was organized by Mayor Bloomberg.

The Connecticut tragedy’s coming at the end of Hanukkah brought back much of the Rahamims’ feelings of loss. But in our conversation, I sensed powerfully that they did not intend to use their despair to retreat. They were resolved instead to turn it into action, to bring about change, to do anything they could to stop their tragedy, the Connecticut tragedy and others like it from happening again.

We need to follow the Rahamims’ example — to never give up fighting, to never assume things can’t be better, because they have to get better. And if we can get past our own despair and act, one day they will.

Budget passage is the payoff for partnership

I’m pleased to report that yesterday evening, the City Council unanimously passed the 2013 budget for Minneapolis that makes major investments in infrastructure, public safety, economic growth and reform.

With this budget, which cuts City spending by 3 percent compared to this year, 70 percent of Minneapolis homeowners will feel no increase — or will see a decrease — in their City property taxes next year.

This is a great budget for Minneapolis residents next year, but it was made possible by the tough financial choices that Minneapolis residents made over the previous 11 years to restore fiscal responsibility to our city.

  • Paying down debt. We have paid down or avoided $241 million in debt since 2002 and restored Minneapolis’ AAA credit rating.
  • Reforming pensions. After years of effort, we succeeded in merging several closed-pension funds whose taxpayer-funded obligations were exploding into the State’s retirement system. In 2012 alone, this reform saved taxpayers $20 million. Moreover, we will retire all of Minneapolis’ pension debt in 2012.
  • Holding the line on wages. We partnered with employees to hold the line on wages at several points during the last decade, which has saved jobs and help hold down property-tax increases.
  • Target Center. From 1994 through 2012, Minneapolis property taxpayers were unfairly saddled with $5 million a year in Target Center costs. As a result of the Vikings stadium deal that passed earlier this year, we lifted these costs off the backs of Minneapolis property taxpayers.

Had we not tackled these tough financial issues over the past decade, Minneapolis residents would be paying 35 percent more in property taxes than they currently are. This legacy of fiscal responsibility and stability that we leave to next year’s taxpayers and the next generation is nothing short of remarkable. Everyone can feel proud of it.

Key budget investments

The 2013 budget makes a number of critical investments in roads, safety and economic growth.

Infrastructure

With the passage of the 2013 budget, our level of infrastructure improvements next year will be three times higher than we planned just two years ago. This level of investment is only possible because we paid off other debt and restored our AAA bond rating.

Public safety

We are adding $2.5 million to the Police Department budget, with the aim of having 10 more officers on the force by next summer, and an additional $1.1 million so that the Fire Department can hire firefighters in advance of expected retirements.

Economic growth

We are continuing to invest in the Department of Community Planning and Economic Development, which has produced strong results in job growth and training, business growth and development, and promoting transit-oriented development.

Regulatory Services reform

With the 2013 budget, we are also taking a significant step forward in delivering our critical core regulatory, health and licensing services more effectively — and saving significant sums of money in the process — through reforming our Department of Regulatory Services.

This reform will make it easier and more streamlined to do business in the City of Minneapolis. Although there was some opposition along the way, a strong majority of Council members supported this essential reform, which I proposed in my budget speech in August, and worked collaboratively over the past several months to improve it.

The payoff of partnership

If there’s another city in America with a more productive two-way partnership between government and residents, I’d be astonished.

For more than a decade, Minneapolis residents and elected officials have asked a lot of each other. We have asked each other for partnership in bringing down crime, and we’ve gotten results. We have asked each other through the recession for partnership in focusing on our economy, and we’ve gotten results. We have asked each other, sometimes through terrible tragedy, for partnership in rebuilding our infrastructure, and we’ve gotten results. And through it all, we have asked each other for partnership in restoring fiscal responsibility, and we’ve gotten remarkable results.

The budget that we passed last night is the payoff for that decade of partnership. I cannot thank you enough for it.

Mayor Rybak, Local Residents Join Call with President Obama, U.S. Mayors on Importance of Renewing Middle-Class Tax Cuts

Mayor Rybak, Local Residents Join Call with President Obama, U.S. Mayors on Importance of Renewing Middle-Class Tax Cuts

Mayor Rybak one of three mayors invited to ask a question on the call

December 12, 2012 (MINNEAPOLIS) — Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak was joined by metro-area residents in his office today as they joined a call with President Barack Obama and other U.S. mayors about the importance of renewing middle-class tax cuts, reducing the deficit in a balanced manner, and keeping the economy growing by keeping an average of $2,200 in the pockets of every middle-class American family.

Without an agreement on the “fiscal cliff” by the end of the year, taxes on middle-class families in Minnesota will increase by an average of $2,200. If a balanced agreement is reached, however, taxes will not rise for 98 percent of American families and 97 percent of small businesses.

President Obama encouraged people share their stories about what their middle-class tax cut means to them at http://www.whitehouse.gov/my2k, and to use the Twitter hashtag #My2K.

Mayor Rybak said, “I hope that Congress, like the Grinch, finally realizes that it’s no fun to steal Christmas. To keep our economy recovering and ensure a healthy fiscal future for America, Congress simply needs to agree to a balanced solution that keeps money in the hands of middle-class residents of Minneapolis and cities across the country.

“We had an election and the people have spoken. This is what the residents of Minneapolis want and it’s what Americans want,” Mayor Rybak continued.

Mayor Rybak was one of three mayors invited to ask President Obama a question on the call, along with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. Mayor Rybak asked President Obama what headline he would most like to see and what action he would like to see Congress take as a result of today’s call.

Mayor Rybak was joined in his office by metro-area residents Sara Marlow of Fridley and Carl Holmquist of Minnetonka, for whom $2,200 goes a long way.

Sara is a single mother who works as an architect in downtown Minneapolis, and for a single mother, there is no such thing as extra money. For her, $2,200 means being able to buy Christmas presents for her five-year-old son and making needed repairs on her car.

Carl is self-employed and looking for work, and cares for his elderly mother nearly full-time as well. For him, $2,200 means the ability to make ends meet while caring for his mother.

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2013 budget moves closer to passage

I’m pleased to report that the 2013 budget I proposed for the City of Minneapolis is nearing final passage, with the full City Council scheduled to vote on it on Wednesday evening. This budget that makes important investments in Minneapolis’ top priorities: improving our roads, our safety and our economy.

It also represents for taxpayers the payoff for 10 years of hard-nosed financial choices we’ve made to pay down debt, hold the line on spending and reform the broken closed-pension system. And with the passage of the stadium bill earlier this year, we’ve removed the burden of Target Center off the backs of property-tax payers.

As a result of all of these choices, about three-quarters of Minneapolis taxpayers will see no increase in their property-tax bill this year, or will even see a decrease.

The most important refinement to the budget that has taken place since I proposed it in August is the reform of the Regulatory Services Department that I promised. After months of hard work, we are proposing to move our Business Licensing, Development Review and Construction Code services to the Department of Community Planning and Economic Development, and our Environmental Health services to the Department of Health and Family Support. We will retain our Housing Investigation, Problem Properties, Animal Control and Traffic Control divisions in Regulatory Services.

If the Council approves this reform as part of the budget, it will make it easier to do business in Minneapolis and help improve residents’ public health. And the savings will be $300,000–400,000 in the first year alone.

I’d particularly like to thank Council Member Betsy Hodges and Council Member Elizabeth Glidden for their hard work in the past several months. Council Member Hodges, who chairs the Council’s Ways and Means/Budget committee, has lead her colleagues and City staff through scores of hours of testimony and hundreds of pages of detailed documents in order to pass a fiscally-responsible and socially-responsive budget. Council Member Glidden chairs the Council’s Regulatory, Energy and Environment Committee, and in that role has played a key role in shaping and passing the reform of the Regulatory Services Department. Her deep knowledge of and commitment to improving this important function of City government will lead to better outcomes for our businesses and residents.

This is a good budget for Minneapolis: it continues our tradition of fiscal responsibility and investing in our priorities. Please let your City Council member or me know what you think.

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Chief Harteau: Toughness and compassion inside and out

Yesterday, 300 people from all walks of life came together in the beautiful City Hall Rotunda to swear in our new police chief, Janeé Harteau. Everyone was positively beaming when her 13-year-old daughter Lauren pinned her with the chief’s badge. I couldn’t have been prouder.

Expectations of Chief Harteau are high. At last week’s City Council hearing about my nomination of her, more than 20 people from across Minneapolis stepped forward to unanimously praise her leadership, toughness and compassion.

And while we have high expectations of her, her expectations of herself and her fellow officers are higher. Chief Harteau pledged to us yesterday that the guiding principles she will bring to her job and the department as a whole are commitment, integrity and transparency. And those values start with her.

In Janeé Harteau, we have chosen someone who understands very well that a chief needs to keep two things in constant focus: the need to lead officers on the inside, and the need to understand pain, suffering and celebration in the community with the experience of someone from the outside.

Chief Harteau has come up through our department: she started as a beat cop at Franklin and Chicago 22 years ago, and at every step of the way — including challenges she herself faced in our department — she has succeeded and has risen to the top. But she is also a person whose character and experience will always allow her to see the perspective of those who don’t feel included, who feel left out, who need reform and change. She will be tough and she will be compassionate. That’s the person that I’ve come to know and believe we can count on every day.

A couple weeks ago, I was at the E.J. Henderson turkey giveaway at the West Broadway Cub Foods store in North Minneapolis, when a young mom and her little girl walked up to me. I asked the girl, “What’s your name?” and she answered, “My name is Janee.” I was delighted and said, “Do you know that you have the same name as the new chief of police?” This little girl’s eyes just lit up and she said, “She’s a lady!”

It is so powerful to think that this little girl, who is growing up in a neighborhood that has faced some challenges with crime, can look to the very top of our police and see someone that she can relate to.

And it is equally powerful that the person we have chosen a person to lead our police is someone who at every step of the way — on the streets and in the corridors of power — has shown that our new top cop is a real top cop.

Janeé Harteau has the toughest job in Minneapolis, and we know that there will be tough times. But when they are, I know she will lead with strength, compassion and openness. She is ready.

One final reflection. In the past, we have come together in the Rotunda for many reasons. But out of all those times, there’s one that I will never forget.

It was a moment 10 years ago, in the middle of the night. We had just come from the hospital. Melissa Schmidt, a remarkable Minneapolis police officer, had just been killed in the line of duty. Chief Olson and I walked into the Rotunda to announce this horrible tragedy for our city.

The lights were very low and it was very dark outside. And as we came down the stairs, an impromptu memorial was being set up. Police officers from all over the city had come, some in their uniforms, some in plain clothes. And that night, we saw in their eyes something that was obvious: they had lost a friend, they had lost a colleague and they had an enormous sadness in their faces.

But I’ll also never forget that at that moment, there was something that we rarely see in the eyes of these people, who are so brave and who protect us every day. It was fear. Fear isn’t something that you usually see there, but that night, as they mourned together the loss of somebody who meant so much to them, they looked deep in their hearts and recognized their own vulnerability. Those officers, who stand calmly and bravely between us and danger every day, recognized how dangerous their job really is. What they really mean to each other and all of us, and how much can be lost.

As Chief Harteau starts to lead the Minneapolis Police Department, we also remember Officer Tom Decker of Cold Spring as he is laid to rest today. We are reminded to show our appreciation of those who serve us every day, and the families who stand behind them.