Rybak campaign had good timing: tapping into NRP energy, e-mail list

Steve Brandt, Star Tribune

November 11, 2001

On the heels of his decisive victory over Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton, Mayor-elect R.T. Rybak readily conceded that he had greatly benefited from two developments that have changed the campaign landscape since 1997. One is the widespread adoption of e-mail. And the continued evolution of the city's Neighborhood Revitalization Program since 1997 has mobilized hundreds-if not thousands-of people to address and think about city priorities.

"A mistake that many elected and city officials made was to try to put the genie back in the bottle," Rybak said. He said his campaign benefited from listening to the emerging agenda of this beyond-the-skyway crowd.

Meanwhile, digital communication fostered creation of cyber exchanges such as the Minneapolis Issues e-mail discussion list.

Rybak dubs it "one of the first post-Napster political campaigns in which the inmates are in charge."

An example of the connections he made from the issues list is Russ Peterson, who frequently posted in bombastic prose about crime, vandalism, litter and other livability concems. Although Rybak disagreed with Peterson on many issues, he appreciated Peterson's frustration with City Hall. Peterson, who eventually moved to St. Michael, created Rybak's campaign Web site.

Rybak throttled back his postings on the issues list somewhat during the campaign, partly because of time constraints and partly because of suggestions that postings posed risks for a candidate.

But last week he suggested that Mayor Rybak won't be a stranger to the list (http://www.e-democracy.org/mpls):

"I hope people also give me the latitude to post early thoughts or float ideas that may be only half-baked or ask people their opinions on things that I don't know enough about yet. I don't want to have to run everything through a spokesman."

Steve Brandt can be contacted at sbrandt@startribune.com or 612-673-4438.


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