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WELCOME

Welcome to the new Park Watch website.  We hope that you will find the new format easier to read and to use. To facilitate navigating the website, there is a search feature and an index of topics.

In addition to the current postings, the new website includes ALL the postings from the old website beginning with January 2004.  With ten years of postings, the Park Watch website  presents a valuable perspective on a critical period in the Park Board’s history.

ABOUT PARK WATCH

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SOUTHWEST LIGHT RAIL EDGES CLOSER TO FINAL APPROVAL


The following article by Eric Roper was published in the August 20, 2014 edition of the StarTribune.

SOUTHWEST LIGHT RAIL EDGES CLOSER TO FINAL APPROVAL

Advocates call for more bus improvements since the line will skirt population centers.

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Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

“For this system to work for Minneapolis residents and not just for suburban commuters, we need safe, dignified and efficient transit connections,” said Council Member Lisa Bender

Minneapolis leaders intensified demands for improved bus connections with the proposed Southwest light rail line Tuesday, seeking to ensure that the line benefits areas beyond the sparsely populated freight corridor it will follow into downtown.

A standing-room-only crowd packed into City Hall Tuesday night at a public hearing in preparation for a City Council vote later in August, the last local approval needed for the project. The Hennepin County Board approved the Minneapolis portion of the project hours before the city public hearing. The $1.6 billion plan would create a new light rail line from Eden Prairie to downtown, with five new stops in Minneapolis.

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SWLRT: A 1990 PLAN FOR THE WORLD OF 2030?

The following letter by East Isles Resident Harriet Horwitz was submitted on August 19, 2014 to Mayor Hodges and Members of the Minneapolis City Council.

SWLRT: A 1990 PLAN FOR THE WORLD OF 2030?

Nobody WANTS to be the lone man in Tiananmen Square.

Nobody WANTS to be a “Profile in Courage”.

Nobody WANTS to step in the path of ‘the jaggernaut of time”.

Nobody WANTS to say out loud “The Emperor has no clothes.”

And NOBODY wants to say that Southwest LRT is a plan wrong for the times and wrong for the City of Minneapolis.

Attempting to social engineer 2030 lifestyles through 1990 goggles (made even foggier by $1.6 billion federal incentives and private financial pressure) makes no sense.

You know this:

DENSITY: “The Happy City” by Charles Montgomery (2013) has researched elements of a livable environment: Walkability, close to workplace, green space, interactivity. How does SWLRT benefit the people of Minneapolis?

(IN)FLEXIBILITY: Fixed-track transit cannot adapt or adjust to fast-changing science or society. Computers (and maybe drones) will reduce the need for longer travel and therefore, ridership.

Aging population (and I’m one of them) will not be served by stops that require blocks of walking.

The upcoming 55-mile per gallon fuel efficiency requirement to be achieved by 2025 will reduce incentive to abandon autos.

Innovations such as mini-cars, car-sharing, self-driving autos and whatever-the-near-future-brings will make rail inflexibility undesirable.

LAND USE: The City and People of Minneapolis are most proud of our parks and recreation. Every tree lost in a storm or killed by a bug is cause for headlines. We’re tops in biking and beauty. Risking any of this is betraying the citizens’ trust. And can we ‘trust’ engineers? We’ve seen too many mistakes.

Yes, developers have made land investments based on much-anticipated LRT. But these are speculations, not entitlements. If LRT does not fulfill their plan, such is the game.

ONE INDIVIDUAL STANDING ALONE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

BUT 14 PEOPLE OF COMMON SENSE AND COURAGE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE FOR GENERATIONS.

Please vote against SWLRT.

Despite Confusion, Minneapolis Moves Ahead On ‘The Yard’

The following editorial was published in the August 18, 2014 issue of the StarTribune

Park Watch Note: The link (embedded in the below editorial) to the highlighted February Use “agreement” brings up the December Term Sheet–and not the February Use Agreement.

Despite Confusion, Minneapolis Moves Ahead On ‘The Yard’

Editorial Board, Star Tribune

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Nothing seems to come easily to Minneapolis. That includes “The Yard,” a two-block green space intended to become the centerpiece of a budding Downtown East district. While a new Vikings stadium and the rest of the neighborhood rises amid forests of construction cranes, the Yard’s future is clouded by “governance issues.”

The Park Board’s decision earlier this month to withdraw from the project appeared, at first glance, to dump the whole matter back into City Hall’s lap, leaving it with the convoluted task of financing and completing the project. Some civic leaders took that as good news, seeing suddenly a clearer, more direct path toward forging the public/private effort needed to expand green space downtown, starting with the Yard.

But, while rejecting the project, the Park Board also reminded the city of a District Court judge’s observation last December that only the Park Board has the authority to own and manage public parks in Minneapolis. What was that all about? Was it a not-so-veiled threat that if the Park Board can’t own and manage the Yard under terms that it likes, then no one else can?

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COMMENTS POSTED ON THE STRIB’S WEBSITE RE STRIB’S PRO-YARD EDITORIAL

Park Watch Observation: It is interesting to note that in less than 24 hours, the StarTribune’s pro-Yard editorial drew over a dozen comments critical of the editorial.

COMMENTS POSTED ON THE STRIB’S WEBSITE RE STRIB’S PRO-YARD EDITORIAL

svenny1 Aug. 18, 14
11:26 AM Boss-Hog Ziggy for mayor! He already has gotten virtually everything he wants in Minneapolis, so why not put him in charge so he can make it legal.

rlwr51 Aug. 18, 14
8:59 AM What “confusion” ? The law is quite clear.

msimsi Aug. 18, 14
8:23 AM The swipe at the park board, essentially saying they couldn’t handle a downtown green space, is ludicrous. Comparing Millennium Park to this vacant lot for the Vikings to erect tents is a stretch. The recommendation that the city charge ahead before coming up with a way to pay for this is insulting. Not mentioning that this redevelopment benefited the StarTribune is a laugh or a cry, take your choice.

billybilly Aug. 18, 14
6:34 AM rshackleford and I are polar opposites on every issue on these forums, save one. He is conservative and I am very liberal. The taxpayer funded stadium is the biggest ripoff ever foisted on the State and especially the fine City of Minneapolis, and when two people that divergent in their views agree then it’s time to realize the folly that BOTH parties have burdened us with. I am not going to vote for Dayton again and I hope that conservatives do the same for their party members that sold them out.

rshackleford Aug. 18, 14
3:06 AM (article quote): “Was it a not-so-veiled threat that if the Park Board can’t own and manage the Yard under terms that it likes, then no one else can?” —– The use of the word “veiled” makes that funny. To answer that very easy question: Yep, if the MPRB cannot legally accept the terms for what amounts to a fake public park and have been dictated to the MPRB by private interests (cough…the NFL…cough), there will be no fake public park because it cannot therefore conform to the MPRB’s long-standing definition of a true public park space. That logic is not difficult to comprehend. Stop trying to make the MPRB and the park system look bad because the effort is just plain futile. The MPRB has overseen a park system that has won many awards. Comparatively, what exactly has the New Jersey owned Minnesota Vikings football team brought home in triumph? Trophies won wouldn’t make a difference here anyway. This “private NFL party/marketing space project” appears to have met its “legal end.”

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Heads-Up for the August 20, 2014 Park Board Meeting

5:00 P.M.  REGULAR BOARD MEETING. The meeting will be held in the boardroom at Park Board headquarters, 2117 West River Road, just north of Broadway Pizza

5:30 P.M.  OPEN TIME. Speakers can call 612-230-6400 before 3:00 p.m. the day of the meeting to sign up or they can sign up at the Board meeting prior to the start of “Open Time”

6:30 P.M. PUBLIC HEARING — Michael P. Schmidt Operations Center.

Listed below are some agenda items of interest.  One item invokes the unusual “Private Land Maintained for Public Use” application. Continue reading

Southwest LRT: Bumpy Path to Crucial Mpls. Vote

The following article by Pat Doyle was published in the August 13, 2014 issue of the StarTribune.

Southwest LRT: Bumpy Path to Crucial Mpls. Vote

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Concerns linger over effects on lakes, recreation and homes as Minneapolis prepares to vote this month on the Southwest line.

Even if the Minneapolis City Council soon approves plans for the Southwest Corridor light rail, its impact on lakes, trails and homes in the community will be dissected and debated for months.

Environmental concerns have prompted some homeowners along the route to urge the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to withhold funding until the impact of the project is more clarified.

They say the city needs that information before voting on whether to consent to the project Aug. 29.

But there are potential stumbling blocks to the city giving its consent. City leaders are demanding a guarantee that nearby freight tracks in the Kenilworth corridor will remain publicly owned, and some council members worry that plans for restoring biking and hiking trails might be scratched to save money.

The concerns persist even as several City Council members last week predicted that a July deal brokered on the Southwest plans would probably be approved.

“There’s a lot of momentum to getting it done,” said Council Member Cam Gordon.

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Light-rail Transit Fight Poses Risk for Future Project

The following article by Pat Doyle was published in the August 5, 2014 issue of the StarTribune:

Light-rail Transit Fight Poses Risk for Future Project

Twin Cities isn’t only metro area to face backlash to light-rail transit projects, as collapse of Washington state project shows.

For supporters of the Southwest Corridor light-rail project, events this summer in Washington state offer a cautionary tale.

A light-rail transit project runs into criticism over its cost and value. Despite millions of dollars spent and endorsement by the federal government, the project collapses in the face of political opposition.

The specific problems that plagued the bridge and transit project in the Pacific Northwest differ from those now confronting planners of the LRT line between downtown Minneapolis and the southwest suburbs. But the experience demonstrates how a transit project can run off the rails after years of detailed planning and preparation.

Some veterans of planning for the Southwest Corridor project worry that it, too, will stall in the face of controversy over costs and execution.

“I’m deeply discouraged at this stage,” said Hennepin County Commissioner Gail Dorfman, who has spent years working on Southwest.

The Southwest LRT is hung up by Minneapolis residents who don’t want it running above ground through their parkland and by St. Louis Park residents who don’t want to see freight trains rerouted through their neighborhoods to make room for the light-rail line.

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Ridership Projections Tricky for Transit Planners

 

The following article by Eric Roper was published in the August 6, 2014 issue of the StarTribune.

Ridership Projections Tricky for Transit Planners

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Above: The view of Linden Yards East, a public works storage facility, and downtown from the Van White stop.

How many people will board the five proposed Southwest light rail stops outside of downtown in Minneapolis? Depends on how optimistic you are about transit-oriented development.

Take the two stops closest to downtown, Royalston and Van White, where the Metropolitan Council has said that 2030 average weekday ridership will be just 273 and 310, respectively.

Those are very low numbers, reflecting the fact that those stops are currently hard to access and surrounded by little more than industrial land. Despite that, developers have expressed interest in transforming the areas with new housing and offices.

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ANOTHER REASON THE PARK BOARD SHOULD NOT OWN “THE YARD”

ANOTHER REASON THE PARK BOARD SHOULD NOT OWN “THE YARD”

It has occurred to Park Watch that there is another very good reason for the Park Board NOT to own and be responsible for any property on which there will be major league sports AND alcohol. And that is because of potential problems when the two are combined.

For example, a few years ago in 2011 there was an incident that occurred after a Dodger-Giants game at Dodger Stadium when a visiting Giant fan was brutally attacked and injured in the Dodger’s parking lot.

The resulting lawsuit against the Dodgers resulted in the plaintiff being awarded a total of $15M from the Dodgers. The prosecuting attorney was quoted as saying that there “was a culture of violence. Beer sales were off the charts.”

Now if a similar incident were to occur on a day or night that the Vikings were using The Yard, isn’t it possible that the Park Board could have some perceived liability, which could mean a lawsuit? If this were to happen, the Park Board would be in trouble because the Park Board is self-insured. It would be a disaster.

Arlene Fried
Co-founder of Park Watch
www.mplsparkwatch.org