Rybak focuses on crime, North side development in State of the City speech

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Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak delivered his State of the City address to a crowd of more than 250 people at the Capri Theater in north Minneapolis yesterday, calling for a sharper focus on public safety and economic development on the city’s troubled north side.

The mayor outlined six goals he would be pursuing in the months ahead, including making the city “a safe place to call home,” creating “one Minneapolis,” improving education, connecting communities, sustaining an “enriched environment,” and promoting the city as “a unique destination.”

To implement these goals, Rybak vowed to add at least 70 new police officers to the force by May, open a new safety center on West Broadway, have a career center in each Minneapolis school, support youth outreach programs with $500,000 in grants, and devote 2 percent of the capital budget to the arts.

He also promised to continue investigation into alternative transportation options and affordable housing near the workplace and to work to implement the city’s Sustainability Plan, which promotes an ecologically friendly environment.

Rybak emphasized the need for an increase in population growth and promised to create more jobs. He also stressed the importance of cooperation amongst Minneapolis residents and tagged public safety as his number-one priority.

“We are not going to become great by imitating what is happening in other cities,” he said. “The inspiration for all of our work is going to have to come from all of us.”

The address was included in a regular city council meeting format but with live music performed by T. Michael Rambo, a poem recitation by city staffer Andrea Jenkins, and the introduction of two North Minneapolis youth.

After presenting and explaining his goals, Rybak focused his attention on the application of the six goals to North Minneapolis.

“You need to know that we have a passion to make sure this area is safe,” Rybak said. He added that residents of North Minneapolis are the most important resource for improving their own neighborhoods.

Rybak stressed that projects, such as the conversion of the Riverside Coal Plant to natural gas, Northside Job Connection, and West Broadway Alive!, will improve living and working conditions in the neighborhood.

“We know that the single most important weapon we have is good neighbors woven together with the police,” Rybak said. “People are really our greatest resources.”

The mayor’s moving in the right direction, said City Council president Barbara Johnson. “The council and the mayor are committed to increasing public safety in Minneapolis,” Johnson said in an interview. “I think we’re on target. We know we need to make the city safer.”

But North side resident and longtime community activist Spike Moss was not convinced. “The mayor has never brought us resources all the year’s he’s been in office,” Moss said. “To get up on the stage and act like he cares is ridiculous.

Rybak remains more interested in South side issues, Moss added. “If you’re going to lead the city, you can’t be mayor for the part of the city that you want to.”

Moss, as well as several other North Minneapolis residents who attended the speech, said their neighborhood is not getting the attention that it needs and deserves. They are appalled that they witness drugs being sold next to the Minneapolis Police 4th Precinct and claim that racial profiling is a serious problem in the neighborhood.

“We don’t need a greater police presence, we need them to be responsible,” Moss said.