R.T. Rybak: A Great Leader for a Great City Volunteer Contribute

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Day In The Life: Feb. 8

The big issue in the first couple days of this week was the impact the President's propsed budget would have on the city of Minneapolis. ...but the story on this goes back a couple weeks:
I first started getting details when I went to the U.S. Conference of Mayors the day before the Innaugural. Others Mayors there and I talked about the rumor that the President was going to make dramatic cuts in Community Development Block Grants.(CDBG)....these are some of the last funds cities have to get people out of poverty and into the workforce.....They are the backbone of what we use for our affordable housing programs, job training, child care, domestic violence.....people like the Somali man who got training in computer skills at Migizi Communications through our summer employment program and is now moving up the career ladder.
Knowing what was about to hit us, the Mayor's I talked to agreed that we would go back to our state's and try to build broad coalitions that could help tell the personal stories of what these cuts would mean.
The first calls I made were to the groups who receive these funds. Then I called other other Mayors in Minnesota, including a couple who have been great partners....Mayor Bergson in Duluth and Mayor Ellenbecker in St. Cloud. Then I called some key leaders of the faith community...including Spencer Simeral, dean of St. Mark's Cathedral, Rabbi Marci Zimmerman of Temple Israel, Jim Gertmenian of Plymouth Congregational Church.
When the President announced his budget Monday and, in fact, Community Development Block Grant funds were cut drastically, we got the group back together and could tell the story to the media. Jim Gertmanian was especially strong in his statement that a budget is a document of values, and the values that leave out those most in need do not represent any faith tradition he knows of......This was so powerful because in the name of faith, faith leaders are being asked to pick up much of what government is not doing. Their help is wonderful but and as I said, you can't run a just society on bake sales and passing the plate.
Mayor Bergson also had a big gathering in Duluth...about 40 people telling these stories.
We will keep telling the story and hope all of you will call your congressional delegation....please make the point that these are the dollars that are not only spent on those in need but are also about SAVING government spending...Every person we put back to work, and get into housing saves far more in welfare, shelter, public health costs.....

It's been an interesting time to be Mayor...when both the state and the federal government do not seem to be standing up for those most in need.....but as we build these coalitions to stand up for these values, I at least know we are not alone.


  • At February 9, 2005 at 7:41 AM, Blogger Erik said…

    You're right, its just so odd and unbeleivable that for a President who talks about having God so close to his heart, that he would continue to walk away from the poor and the meek.

    One of the Bible stories that sticks with me the most is the one of the rich man and the poor man. (I recall the essence of the story more than the specifics.) But I can't help myself but imagine if someone came to me in need, if it was actually a test of my faith. What if that was Jesus at my door seeking shelter for the night, how would I feel if I turned him away?!

    Its our Christian duty to help those who need it the most. Shame on Bush and his 'faith' for walking away.

  • At February 9, 2005 at 8:57 PM, Blogger R.T. Rybak said…

    The good news Chris is that Minneapolis is loaded with faith leaders who are working hard every day for those most in need.

  • At February 10, 2005 at 8:46 PM, Anonymous Pr. Craig Pederson, NE Mpls said…

    I agree with Id's confusion about our President, and I would add outrage. Sadly, the more "compassionate" Pres. Bush becomes, the more the disadvantages grow for the poor and vulnerable among us.

    Bush leans heavily in the direction of "charity", where someone offers a helping hand - maybe - to a person who has already fallen off the cliff. He leans far away from "justice", where systemic reasons are challenged and changed to keep people from falling off the cliff in the first place.

    Christians are often very good at charity (food shelves, clothing drives, free medical clinics). But we get a little skittish when pursuing justice, because it involves confrontation and speaking truth to public officials who have the ability to make a great difference in the lives of individual people through the policies they enact or deny.

    I applaud your efforts, Mayor Rybak, to ensure opportunities are available for everyone - especially the disadvantaged. and your proactive approach to engaging local faith communities in the effort. You seem to really "get it" - that religion and politics can share values about promoting the common good, without blurring the lines of church and state.

    Faith leaders of all backgrounds share a commitment to care for those who are struggling, regardless of the causes of their struggles. The last thing someone who is hurting needs is to have their basic necessities removed because a budget category in Washington or St. Paul doesn't balance.

    To see a progressive but non-partisan faith perspective on national policies that echoes R.T.'s reference to budgets being moral documents, see Sojourners at www.sojo.org. For a similar statewide interfaith perspective see Joint Religious Legislative Coalition at www. jrlc.org.

  • At February 13, 2005 at 7:51 PM, Blogger R.T. Rybak said…

    Very well said, Craig....for those who don't know Craig's work, he came in to lead one of the oldest parishes in northeast Minneapolis a couple years ago. I was lucky enough to go to his installation and met all these folks who had spent many decades and, in some cases, a couple generations, in that church. I sat next to one woman who was about 80, and told me about being baptised there.
    Anyway, they were all really excited about Craig coming into the congregation...and they were even more excited about his work six months later when I visited them at the annual Sauerkraut dinner.
    Craig has also been leading neighborhood efforts to improve Central Av.
    Stay in touch, Craig, and if anyone hears about their Sauerkraut dinner, definately go.


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