On November 6, both Minneapolis and St. Paul elected new mayors. Access Press asked both Randy Kelly of St. Paul and R.T. Rybak of Minneapolis to take some time out of their busy transition periods to briefly share their views on disability issues with our readers. We asked each mayor-elect the following three questions:
1. What do you consider to be the issues of greatest importance to the local disability community, and how would you rank their importance?
2. What is your plan of action in addressing the issues in #1?
3. If we check back in a year or two, what actual progress on disability issues will we see in your city? Here are their responses.
St. Paul Mayor-Elect Randy Kelly
I would consider many issues important to the disabled community. In many ways, I believe their concerns are not entirely different from any community. They are looking for a safe, clean, and affordable city a place where access to buildings is no less important to them than access to good jobs, education, and opportunity.
As mayor, I will remain committed to the lifetime of commitment I provided to the disabled community by working to ensure equal opportunity to all regardless of their disability.
In general, my focus will be on maintaining a strong local economy and expanding job growth. These key elements of my first 100 days will provide a foundation for investment in our community. This investment will help spur greater economic growth and opportunity for all people.
I will also work very closely with the Disability Council [St. Paul Mayor’s Advisory on People with Disabilities] and the agenda that they have created and prepared for the city. I will value the counsel and advice of this organization and work closely with them over the next four years to make the city a better place to live, work, and raise a family for those in the disability community.
In a year or two, I hope you will check back and see an administration that has had an open door policy towards the disability community and a real commitment to listen to your concerns and act upon them. The best I can do is the best we can do together. And, I know that with your help, guidance, and advice, we will make a great city even better.
Minneapolis Mayor-Elect R.T. Rybak
I will work to improve the quality of life in Minneapolis for individuals with disabilities in transportation, affordable housing, employment, education, recreational opportunities, and other needs as identified.
Obtaining accessible taxicabs has been a long-standing problem for persons with disabilities. Previously, there has been only limited availability through one taxicab company. This situation must be remedied if we are going to ensure that persons with disabilities needing accessible transportation will have equal opportunities. The Rybak administration will support efforts to increase accessible taxicab availability in Minneapolis. We will also continue to work with the Metropolitan Council to increase the number of accessible buses and routes available, and support accessible light rail and commuter rail options.
Persons with disabilities especially need access to affordable housing. The administration will produce a plan to jump-start affordable housing increases during the first 90 days. The plan will focus on the means to aggressively increase the number of affordable units in the short term, with a process in place to meet measurable goals over the next four years. The production of accessible affordable housing will be included in the housing programs that are part of this initiative. The administration will also support efforts to obtain additional Mainstream Section 8 Vouchers through HUD by the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority. There must also be an aggressive public education campaign to demonstrate the need for affordable housing and these efforts must involve outreach to the disability community.
People with disabilities have higher unemployment rates. They may be the first to lose a job during an economic downturn. The Rybak administration will work closely with the Minneapolis Advisory Committee on People with Disabilities to identify areas of improvement for the recruitment and hiring of persons with disabilities for city jobs. We will also work with the private sector to promote the hiring of persons with disabilities and identify other partners that city government can bring to the table to improve employment opportunities for persons with disabilities.
Promoting recreational and leisure opportunities for persons with disabilities is an important quality-of-life indicator for the city. The administration will work with the Park Board to ensure full access to city programs for youth and adults. The mayor will also ensure that city-sponsored festivals are “disability friendly” and that other emerging needs are addressed.
The administration will work to ensure that measurable progress has been made on all issues identified as priorities for persons with disabilities. The mayor will have ongoing outreach to the disability community. Our goal is to ensure full inclusion for all persons with disabilities who live or work in Minneapolis.