Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Raymond Thomas Rybak, Jr. (born December 11, 1955), who goes by the name R.T. Rybak, is the current mayor of the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota and a member of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. Rybak's election was a shock to many political observers, as he defeated Sharon Sayles Belton , the first African-American and first female mayor of the city, without the help of campaign consultants or a vast war chest of funding. To win, Rybak ran an energetic and highly populist campaign, listening intently to the concerns of residents while he brought his message door-to-door. In the 2001 election, he won 65% of the vote to Belton's 35%—the widest margin in city history for a challenge to an incumbent. He took office in January 2002.
Rybak says he first became interested in becoming mayor at the age of 13. However, he took a non-traditional route into politics, spending many years as a journalist. He worked for the Minneapolis Tribune in the 1970s and '80s, then went on to run the Twin Cities Reader , which was sold off and shut down in 1997. He headed Internet Broadcasting Systems for a few years before striking out on his own. That company, which started as an online division of Minneapolis television station WCCO, runs websites for many stations across the United States. Following his job there, he went on to do consulting work as an Internet strategist, and also assisted on some projects with Minnesota Public Radio and Public Radio International.
During this time, Rybak also worked as an activist with a number of different groups. He has been an active supporter of the GLBT community in the Twin Cities and also supported the presidential campaign of Ralph Nader in 2000. However, Rybak is best known for being an early member of the group ROAR ("Residents Opposed to Airport Racket"), which campaigned to fund noise mitigation projects in neighborhoods around the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport. The group staged a memorable "pajama protest," where area residents wore their nighttime clothes at the airport to show that they were losing sleep because of airplane noise.
Rybak has been involved in a number of controversies as mayor. One of the earliest involved the shutdown of a group that oversaw complaints about the Minneapolis Police Department. Considered a model for the nation, Rybak closed it down partly because of funding concerns (he had inherited a situation requiring $5 million to be shaved from the city's budget). After the September 11, 2001 attacks and the U.S. military actions that followed, Rybak opposed sending American forces into Iraq, but pledged to veto any city resolution stating the same since it would be nothing more than a symbolic gesture.
He has drawn attacks for sending his children to a private school, giving the impression to some that he doesn't fully support the Minneapolis Public Schools. Rybak went to the same school when he was growing up because his mother had been given a job there during a difficult period, so he has said that sending his own children there is paying back a debt as much as anything else.
The mayor is seen at events all across the city on a regular basis. He one of probably a very small number of mayors to have ever crowd surfed—he dove from the stage during a "Rock for Democracy" event at the popular Minneapolis club First Avenue in July 2004. After the venue closed temporarily because of bankruptcy later that year, he promised to do another stage dive on the first night of reopening. However, he postponed it after finding out that Gwar was performing that night, later completing the feat at a concert by The Frogs.
Rybak lives in the city's East Harriet neighborhood with his wife, Megan, and their children, Charlie and Grace.
- Mayor R.T. Rybak
- R.T. Rybak's campaign website
- Mayor R.T. Rybak Stage Dives and Crowd Surfs at First Avenue during Rock for Democracy
- Art Hughes (October 23, 2001). Campaign Profile: R.T. Rybak. Minnesota Public Radio. Accessed December 5, 2004.
- Art Hughes (January 2, 2001). R.T. Rybak becomes mayor. Minnesota Public Radio. Accessed December 5, 2004.
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