Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak’s announcement Tuesday that he’ll run for re-election means there’ll be a two-man race for the DFL endorsement, at least according to the other man: Rybak rival Bob Miller.
Miller’s prediction was borne out, for now anyway, by City Council Member Ralph Remington, who confirmed he won’t run for mayor now that Rybak’s in the race. (Note: Miller’s calculation doesn’t factor in perennial candidate Dick Franson.)
Rybak’s announcement surprised few, Miller included. “I expected nothing less,” he said after learning that Rybak had made it official. ”That was the case back in November.” (Miller announced his own candidacy Nov. 13.)
As for the city’s dire financial straits, “it’s going to be pretty pitiful,” said Miller, acknowledging a looming budget gap that would cramp any mayor’s style.
But that doesn’t keep Miller from contrasting his approach with Rybak’s.
“We have differences on how we think citizens should be involved in their local government, how we would manage the finances of the city, the kinds of initiatives that we would focus on,” he said.
Indeed, the crashing economy can put their differences in higher relief. For example, Miller said, as a mayor during hard times, “you don’t put money in for consultants to try to sell your water” — a reference to Rybak’s marketing effort to sell municipal water to more of the suburbs that surround Minneapolis.
“It may be a great idea if you’ve got all kinds of resources available to you [but not now],” Miller said.
Rybak’s initiative hit one snag when the city’s water, drawn from the Mississippi River, experienced an ill-timed run of malodorousness in the midst of the marketing. And today comes word that plans for a major upgrade to the city’s water works is likely to be canceled to forestall rate increases.
Better management of public funds is one of Miller’s pledges. “I don’t think that’s fiscally sustainable, keeping on raising property taxes by 8 percent a year and raising the fees on city services,” he said.
Miller is a former Rybak backer, he points out.
“I was a strong supporter of his when he ran for the first time,” Miller said. “But he made commitments to me that he hasn’t followed through on, and that has caused me to have second thoughts.”
Rybak and the city council are folding the city’s longstanding Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) that Miller now directs into a community engagement program that doesn’t measure up to NRP in Miller’s estimation.
Despite his deep roots in neighborhood development, Miller’s campaign won’t reprise Rybak’s first run eight years ago as a community activist, he says, in part because Rybak benefited from well-heeled backers motivated to eject the power bloc then in place.
“We’re not going to be a high-buck campaign,” Miller said. “We just don’t have the resources.”
A web site, house parties and other events will carry him through the DFL convention. Should he not prevail there, he’ll abide by the endorsement and not work against the victor, he said.
Council Member Remington was ready to weigh his own bid for the mayor’s job when Rybak announced.
“If R.T. didn’t run I probably would have taken a strong look at running,” he said. Now he’s in Rybak’s corner.
“He’s been great for the city. I’m going to support him. … The reason why I’m not running is that we’re mostly in sync on things. … Sure, we hold different viewpoints on strategies and on certain matters dealing with the police. But we’ve got a relationship built up over the last four years. I can go to him” with concerns, for example, about law enforcement.
Remington hasn’t yet decided whether to run for re-election to his council seat — or any other, he said.
“There is no other race that I’m looking at,” he said.
However, he is, like Rybak, in contact with the Obama administration and will be leaving Saturday to attend the presidential inauguration. (Council Members Robert Lillegren and Sandy Colvin Roy will also make the trip, he said.) He was invited to so many different inaugural week events, he said, he’s going to have to pick and choose which to attend.
As for any word of new job prospects for him on the Obama front: “No news,” Remington said, somewhat coyly.