Rybak presses for special legislative session

  • Article by: TERRY COLLINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 15, 2007 - 11:40 PM

The mayor also commended rescue workers during budget speech.

His resonant tone sounded more like a state of the city address than a pitch for next year's preliminary budget.

There were no colorful pie charts or bar graphs filled with dollar amounts on overhead screens.

In a 20-minute speech to a standing-room-only crowd at City Hall, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak weaved his fiscal outlook Wednesday with the somber realities facing the City Council.

Avoiding specific details, Rybak broadly outlined the budget and said he intends to deliver a full budget by mid-September.

The City Council's committees begin their scheduled budget hearings Sept. 24.

Council Member Paul Ostrow said after the speech that Rybak "made the right decision." The council will adopt the city budget in December.

Noting that funding for public safety and infrastructure are his top budget priorities, Rybak used the occasion to again acknowledge emergency workers who responded during the Interstate 35W bridge collapse two weeks ago that left nine dead and four people missing.

He noted that the collapse was not the greatest disaster in the city's history, in terms of loss of life. The explosion at the Washburn "A" Mill that killed 18 workers in 1878 still holds that distinction.

"In times of disaster, and in the face of one of the worst disasters we could ever imagine, Minneapolis performed brilliantly," said Rybak, as several public safety officials in attendance received a standing ovation.

Rybak also urged Gov. Tim Pawlenty to call a special legislative session to help boost the city's local government aid amount. He said the city has had annual losses averaging about $30 million in state aid since 2003; if a state tax bill vetoed this spring is reconsidered, it could bring as much as $14 million in aid to Minneapolis.

"We should also remember another lesson of this tragedy: When you invest in quality government you get quality results," Rybak said. "When you don't invest, there are consequences."

'Our efforts paid off'

He said that Minneapolis has spent more than $50 million in the past five years in emergency preparedness, training and state-of-the-art equipment that was used during the bridge crisis.

"It is crystal clear today that our efforts paid off," Rybak said.

He used that point to stress the need to spend more on public safety to put more cops on the street.

Rybak noted that violent crime is down 14 percent citywide and down 19 percent on the North Side -- where a majority of Minneapolis' murders have occurred this year. The city's murder total is 32 so far, compared to 41 at this time a year ago.

"We are making progress, but we have a long way to go," Rybak said.

He also said there is major work to be done on the city's infrastructure, admitting that there's been a lack of investment "in resurfacing our roads and repairing our sidewalks."We know we can't delay this work any longer, but I honestly can't tell you how we will step up to this challenge ... and other critical things we need to do in the current financial climate," he said.

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