Thursday, July 18, 2019
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Twin Cities mayors pledge cooperation

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Mayors R.T. Rybak, left, and Chris Coleman chat with patrons at DeGidio's restaurant in St. Paul Wednesday, a day after both won convincing election victories. (MPR Photo/William Wilcoxen)
The current mayor of Minneapolis and the future mayor of St. Paul met Wednesday to congratulate one another on their respective victories in Tuesday's elections. Mayor R.T. Rybak of Minneapolis and Mayor-elect Chris Coleman of St. Paul say they expect to replace the two cities' rivalry with a new era of cooperation on issues that affect both Twin Cities.

St. Paul, Minn. — Rybak and Coleman slid into a booth in an Italian restaurant in one of St. Paul's oldest neighborhoods only 15 hours or so after their convincing mayoral victories were complete. They met to lay the groundwork for a working relationship that Coleman says can help the whole Twin Cities area.

"The issues that we're facing are not particular to St. Paul or to Minneapolis. Transit is a regional issue, affordable housing is a regional issue, economic development is a regional issue," says Coleman. "The mayor is elected to represent and promote Minneapolis, I will now be representing and promoting St. Paul. But I think when we join forces, we're both going to benefit. The entire region is going to benefit."

Coleman and Rybak had met before, but used their lunch date at DeGidio's Restaurant to get to know one another better. Both were in good spirits, with Rybak having claimed 61 percent of the ballots cast in Minneapolis on Tuesday and Coleman 69 percent of the St. Paul votes.

Coleman and Rybak defeated fellow Democrats, although St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly had alienated many voters in the heavily DFL city with his endorsement of President Bush's re-election campaign last year.

Rybak's relationship with Kelly was sometimes chilly but he spoke warmly of Coleman.

"I can't tell you how happy I am to have Chris join in the fraternity. In fact, I'm giving him a present to welcome him into the mayor's fraternity," said Rybak, as he presented Coleman with a painting by a Twin Cities artist, James Boyd-Brent, which features Mississippi River scenes in each downtown.

Both mayors said they would hang copies of the painting in their offices. Rybak acknowledged that during his first term Minneapolis and St. Paul did not always work together.

"I have a great sense of humor and I think Chris' is better than mine. But I don't laugh anymore at Minneapolis-St. Paul jokes, which I think have been about having these two cities fighting each other, not working together," said Rybak. "This is a period of time when people most in need -- who we represent -- need us to be together. And I feel that's especially true on education, on housing, on transportation. And having somebody there with the same value system is going to matter a lot."

Earlier, during a joint appearance on Minnesota Public Radio's Midday program, Coleman also talked about the neediest residents of the Twin Cities and the importance of moderating racial disparities.

"Too many people are being left out of the society. They're not getting the education that they need. They're not getting the economic opportunity that they need. They're not even getting decent housing," said Coleman. "And too often those things break down along racial lines. And so if we're going to build the kind of quality city that we need to, we can't leave people out of the process."

Coleman and Rybak spoke mainly in generalities, but they did specify lobbying for a statewide ban on smoking in bars and restaurants as an example of legislation they can champion together at the state Capitol.

Rybak, who appeared on the radio show by phone, was also specific about the need for enhanced rail transit in the Twin Cities, including a terminal at the Union Depot in St. Paul.

"Are we going to be a place that every decade or so builds another light rail line, or are we really going to do this right?" said Rybak. "It's time for us to do what Denver did -- have a multi-county regional sales tax that pays for not just one, but two or three lines at once. We need to build it out to the western suburbs, we need that Red Rock line from Hastings into the Union Depot. Let's move on this."

When asked if Coleman supports a regional sales tax increase to pay for rail transit, a spokesman said the mayor-elect is anxious to tackle the issue of light rail and will clarify his policy positions in the coming weeks.