Wednesday, December 16, 2009


The ninth DFL gubernatorial candidate in this blog series is R. T. Rybak.

R. T. Rybak was born on Nobember 12, 1955, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His birth name is Raymond Thomas Rybak, Jr. He graduated from Breck School in 1974 and from Boston College in 1978. He then returned to Minneapolis and obtained his first job as a reporter and editor for Sun Newspapers. After that he worked as a journalist for the Minneapolis Tribune in the 1970s and 1980s. Following that, he ran the Twin Cities Reader, which was sold off and shut down in 1997. For a few years, he headed Internet Broadcasting Systems, which started as an online division of Minneapolis television station WCCO. Rybak then did consulting work as an Internet strategist and assisted with some projects with Minnesota Public Radio and Public Radio International. In 2001, Rybak defeated incumbent Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton and became mayor of Minneapolis. On November 3, 2009, Rybak was elected to a third term as mayor of Minneapolis.

Here's how R. T. Rybak measures up on the questions that I think are so important in deciding who to vote for:

1. How much experience working in government does the candidate have? R. T. Rybak has eight years of experience as mayor of Minneapolis. This is the executive branch of leadership. He also has several years of experience in community and political activism. He was the campaign manager for Tony Bouza. Rybak also serves on the Board of Directors of Nice Ride Minnesota, which is a public bicycle sharing program. He was also the Development Director for Minneapolis' Downtown Council.

2. Is the candidate electable? Does the candidate have state-wide name recognition? R. T. Rybak has a very good chance of winning the governorship. He is very popular in Minneapolis. Everyone in the metro area knows exactly who he is. He has an extensive metro support system. He'll have a bit of work to do in the rural areas, but with his charm and charisma he shouldn't have any trouble getting voters to support him. In his 2005 re-election campaign he defeated challenger (and fellow DFLer) Peter McLaughlin. He won the election by nearly 25 percentage points. It was 61.47% to 36.72% (43,198 votes for Rybak and 25,807 votes for McLaughlin). On November 3rd, 2009. Rybak was elected to a third term as mayor, winning more than 72% of the first place votes based on unofficial results. Here's MNPost's take on Rybak's electability.

3. Does the candidate have viable ideas about how to fix the crisis that Minnesota is in? Does the candidate have an actual plan for tackling most of the issues, or does he/she only talk about one or two issues? Does the candidate whine that the new governor can't do everything so has to concentrate on one or two things, or does he/she appear eager to get right to work on a plan to solve all the most pressing issues? R. T. Rybak is not a whiner. He has shown in Minneapolis that he has the skills to improve life for the residents. Rybak's mayorship has dealt mostly with lowering crime, creating jobs, building affordable housing, and balancing the City's budget. If he could balance the budget of Minneapolis, he would most likely have at least some inkling of how to do the same for the state of Minnesota. The budget would be many times larger, but at least he has some idea of what is necessary to balance it.

4. Is the candidate popular with voters? Yes, definitely. He's got the kind of personality that many people naturally warm up to. He knows how to work a room. He often arrives early and uses the extra time to greet people and shake their hands. People walk away with the feeling that he's an old friend that they've known for a long time.

5. Is there anything in the candidate's past that the opposition can use to turn voters against him or her? Well sure there is. Read about it here. I don't think they'll be able to deny the fact that Rybak has done a lot of good in Minneapolis, though. Here's a tidbit regarding Rybak and the Campaign Finance Board.

6. If the candidate has past legislative experience, what was his or her voting record like? R. T. Rybak does not have past legislative experience, but he is the mayor of Minneapolis. Read about his accomplishments here.

7. Does the candidate have the type of personality that can get along with the legislators well enough to work with them and get things done? Does he or she have a history of getting along well with others? R.T. Rybak has a very congenial personality. He's the Joe Girard of politics. He's got a warm smile and a firm handshake. He knows how and when to use diplomacy, too. It's my opinion that he does have the kind of personality that would enable him to get along with legislators, commissioners and constituents. If he were governor, he ought to be able to accomplish a lot.

8. What is the public image of the candidate? How do others see him or her? Sometimes what you see is what you get; other times how you perceive a person is not at all how they really are. As far as I can tell, Rybak is very popular and well liked. He had a huge amount of support as he ran for his third term as mayor of Minneapolis. Read about it here. Here's a good rundown from MinnPost on Rybak's mystique and why he's popular.

9. How much budgeting experience does the candidate have? Is it enough to combat the current budget crisis? Does the candidate thoroughly understand money? When R. T. Rybak became mayor of Minneapolis in 2002, the budget was in crisis. He balanced the city budget eight years in a row without accounting gimmicks and paid off $116 million in debt. He did all this while the state government budget was in meltdown and the state abandoned its commitment to Minneapolis and cities like it across Minnesota. Here's an article from City Pages regarding Rybak's budget balancing. And this from WCCO. Read this one, too, from the Metropolitan Building Commission. As mayor of Minneapolis, Rybak works with a budget of  1.4 billion dollars. Read an overview of the 2009 Minneapolis Revised City Budget. Here is Rybak's PowerPoint presentation on the Revised 2009 Minnapolis budget. And here is the 2010 Mayor Rybak Recommended Budget. My thought is that I'd rather have a governor who has experience with a large budget than a governor who doesn't have any experience. Rybak definitely meets this qualification.

10. Does the candidate have a history of going out of his or her way to help others? Does the candidate truly care about the people of Minnesota, or is the candidate only out for himself or herself? He opened Project Homeless Connect. I can't find anything regarding him helping out with Salvation Army bellringing, soup kitchens. Habitat for Humanity, etc. That doesn't mean he hasn't done it. I just can't find anything about it. If anyone knows of anything, please let me know and I'll post it here.

11. What are the true inner motives as to why the candidate wants to be the next governor of Minnesota? Watch the video below to find out.

12. Will the candidate be able to win a debate against the opposition? I don't have any qualms about Rybak's debating skills. He's an excellent communicator. He can get his ideas across. I think he'll be able to hold his own against any opponent. The only recommendation I have is the same as what I would say to all the candidates. Answer the questions. Answer them directly with no beating around the bush or skirting the issue. They should all read Basic Debating Skills and Toastmasters Debating Skills. Even more important is Advancing in Debate: Skills and Concepts.

13. Does the candidate like children and animals? Here's some pictures I found online of Rybak with kids. I couldn't find any of him with dogs or cats.

Rybak visits with a child.

Rybak with his own kids.

Rybak with Goldie the Gopher. Does that count as liking animals?

R. T. Rybak with school kids.

Rybak looks like he enjoys kids.

R. T. Rybak, Fun with Kids

14. Does the candidate often say what he or she thinks the audience wants to hear or does he/she tell the truth no matter how unpopular that truth might be? Is the candidate honest with the audience or are there half-truths and embellishments? My analysis is that although Rybak is a politician and thus tries to be diplomatic, in general he tells the truth as he sees it. I believe that he's usually honest with the audience. There may be a few embellishments or exaggerations, but less than some of the other candidates. Listen as he talks to reNEW Minnesota.

Here's another video. Whether he's telling the truth or engaging in some embellishments and sidestepping the truth is up to the viewers to decide.

15. Does the candidate agree to be accountable to the people of Minnesota? I haven't heard him come right out and say so like Dayton has, but this video suggests that he is willing to be accountable. Rybak's section of the video begins about halfway though.

16. Does the candidate have a team of advisors and commissioners in mind yet? I haven't heard anything about whether he does or not. If anyone knows, please inform me.

17. In the final analysis, which candidate do you really connect with and why? I do connect with R. T. Rybak. How can you help it? He's personable, he's fun, he's smart and he goes out of his way to make a person feel welcome. He's very likeable. I'm not sure I have as much in common with him as I do with Dayton, but there's no doubt that Rybak connects to people so most people can't help but think he's a pretty personable guy.

18. And last but not least, what has the candidate done in his/her career to help various communities of people, such as Seniors, Veterans, Children, Disabled, GLBT, etc.? This is all I could find on his website regarding what he has done for groups of people, in this case Veterans. He has been endorsed by the DFL Veterans Caucus. DFL Veterans Caucus Chair Trista Matascastillo said, "As Mayor of Minneapolis, Rybak oversees the city's Police Force and the Fire Department. Immediately after being elected Mayor in 2001, Rybak received intensive training for emergency response, expertise that he used when responding to the collapse of the I-35 Bridge in August 2007. Rybak has the experience and executive leadership to deploy the National Guard effectively."  If anyone knows of anything else, please inform me and I will post it here.

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