Andrea Batista Schlesinger
Mayor R.T. Rybak: “A community organizer in the White House”
"I hope when the presidential candidates talk about cities, they stop thinking about us as basketcases, and think instead of the potential of cities to turn this country around."
That's Mayor R.T. Rybak's urban agenda in a nutshell. It's time, he argues, for federal policymakers to get over the outdated notion that cities are a drag on America. Instead, whether you're talking about a better workforce, a stronger economy or a healthier environment, "urban America is the future of America."
For Rybak, that philosophy also means valuing the diversity and inclusivity of cities. "I was elected right after 9/11," said Rybak, "when there were a lot of messages coming out of Washington that attacked immigrants, that attacked the gay and lesbian community. But you can hardly go to a block in Minneapolis where there isn't a significant contribution from the gay and lesbian community. And you can go to streets that were moribund before large scale immigration happened that are now totally revived because of it. My city is stronger because we had different values than the Washington values that have been pushed onto us."
As a prairie populist with community organizing roots, it's no surprise to hear Rybak wax poetic about the 100 different languages spoken in Minneapolis, or the value of listening to community leaders. His hope is that the next president will bring that same sensibility to the White House. Which is why he was the first big city mayor to sign onto the Obama bandwagon.
"We need a person in Washington who understands that leadership often comes from the grassroots," Rybak said. "I want a community organizer in the White House."