Minneapolis leaders sworn in, face budget problemsby Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio
Minneapolis — In Minnesota's largest city, the mayor and members of the City Council were sworn into office Monday. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak returns for his third term, and the council has some new faces.
Their main challenge will be guiding the city as the bad economy continues and more state budget cuts loom on the horizon.
Some of the elected officials who stood on the steps in the City Hall rotunda to take their oaths of office may have second thoughts about what they're getting into.
The 13-member Council and Mayor Rybak have their work cut out for them. For the past several years, the state has cut aid to the city. City leaders say they had to lay off police officers for the first time in the city's history because of the latest round of cuts.
Now the state is facing a projected $1.2 billion budget deficit over the next 18 months, and city leaders are preparing to lose more state money.
Mayor Rybak has been credited with keeping the city on relatively stable financial footing during his first two terms. But the DFLer is now running for governor, and if successful, will move to St. Paul.
Rybak's inaugural address sounded in many ways like a "state of the city" speech. The mayor reiterated some of his priorities for the city, and how they were fulfilled.
"Four years ago, knowing that north Minneapolis was one of the -- if not the -- most economically challenged part of the state of Minnesota, we launched North Force," Rybak said. "The idea behind that was every arm of the city government, foundations, businesses and community partners would focus on north Minneapolis. That has come true."
Rybak said over the last four years, violent crime dipped significantly in the city. And he hailed the arrival of companies, such as the Danish firm Coloplast, which relocated to the city and hired new people.
Following the mayor's address, members of the City Council selected Council members Barbara Johnson and Robert Lilligren to continue as president and vice president.
The council's three new members got their first chance to sit on the dais and take a few votes.
New 10th Ward Council member Meg Tuthill said the real work will begin once the committees begin to meet. Tuthill says helping the city navigate through choppy financial waters will be one of her toughest challenges.
"I think it's really huge. I think that we really need to watch everything," said Tuthill. "I come from a small business background. I've been through several setbacks in small business, and the only difference in this one is it's lasted longer and it's been a bit deeper. But you really, really have to be careful, and you cannot expect other people to give and you don't."
The other new council members are John Quincy and Kevin Reich. Both say the city's financial woes present significant difficulties. But they say they are up to the challenge.
- All Things Considered, 01/04/2010, 5:20 p.m.