The mayor came into North Minneapolis April 11 for his annual State of the City address and left it just as it was. In fact, there was nothing in his speech that would suggest any real improvements to this foreclosure-ridden, tornado-scarred and economically deprived section of Minneapolis.
No, the mayor used the Capri Theater as a prop in the timeworn political theater of appearing to care about folks without doing much to actually improve their condition. Rybak failed to remind those in the audience that they, along with himself and the rest of the community, have a responsibility in making some of the changes and improvements that are needed.
While shrewdly acknowledging that there are still 123 homes in North Minneapolis that need roof repair, he offered no real plan on how the City was going to repair those roofs. And make no mistake, roofs would not have sat in disrepair in Southeast Minneapolis or almost any other part of town.
Rybak, while petitioning for FEMA funds, was not persistent in his efforts on behalf of the North Side. I believe he gave up too soon. Oddly, other locales in the U.S. that were not as badly damaged received FEMA aid, in some cases because of the persistence and determination of the area’s chief executive.
Rybak even reminded those in attendance that the city ranks worst in the nation in Black and White unemployment disparities. According to Rybak, the White unemployment rate for the city is 5.3 while the Black rate is at 20 percent. In fact, a local study put the Black unemployment rate in Minneapolis at 27 percent. But besides talk about summer youth jobs, no real plan was put forth to solve this vexing problem.
The mayor should have used his bully pulpit to remind businesses and corporations that they have a responsibility to hire citizens of all hues. He should have insisted that the business world hire qualified people of color. He should have suggested that business work with the City to create training programs to bring more Northsiders into the economic mainstream.
He could have warned companies doing business with Minneapolis that the City is going to monitor their hiring practices and ensure their compliance with its workforce participation goals.
While the mayor did mention the foreclosure crisis and its impact on Minneapolis, his comments fell far short of what is needed. He should have again used his bully pulpit to call for a moratorium on foreclosures. Even a resolution would send the right message to his constituents who are not losing their homes because of sloth, but in many cases because of the refusal of the big banks to work with them in these depressed financial times.
And Rybak in no way should allow his police force to help banks in this effort, especially in light of the illegal shenanigans that many have been caught perpetrating on homeowners.
Speaking of giving up, the mayor has allowed the Civil Rights Department to be pared down. He has also overseen the near elimination of the Civilian Review Board, which, though it lacks subpoena power to effect any real change, did allow some review of complaints on police abuse and misconduct.
In fact, if Mayor Rybak would advocate as hard for the city’s North Side as he has for the private business interests of the Minnesota Vikings in their efforts to use public monies to prop up their private enterprise, that section of town would not be in such dire straits and its neighborhood organizations might have enough money to operate.
The North Side is bleeding and is in need of emergency treatment, yet the mayor only offered Band-Aids in the form of a little nonprofit charity. But why should Rybak offer anything substantive when few folks are making demands for more than Band-Aids?
Mel Reeves welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.