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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 LRT: EXPECT LEGAL ACTION

The following letter-to-the-editor by Steven R. Goldsmith of Minneapolis was printed in the August 29, 2014 edition of the Minneapolis Tribune. And on August 29, 2014, the Minneapolis City Council did vote, but not unanimously, to grant consent for SWLRT.

SOUTHWEST LRT: EXPECT LEGAL ACTION

The Aug. 27 commentary by James Lindbeck (“Southwest LRT: The wrong project for the wrong reasons”) was spot-on in revealing the actual motivations behind the current iteration of the effort. Also, in his reference to author Louise Erdrich’s eloquent comments, he summarized well the consequences to the “soul” of Minneapolis.

But the train as now planned is not inevitable, as he fears. The Lakes and Parks Alliance has retained senior legal representatives, including a former Hennepin County attorney, who believe that the Metropolitan Council has violated both state and federal statutes in requesting municipal consent without a completed environmental-impact statement. If the Minneapolis City Council grants consent, there will very likely be a lawsuit in federal court.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has publicly opposed the current plan and has legal grounds for injunctive relief under a different federal law relating to transit alternatives in historically significant environments. Whether the Park Board would undertake a legal challenge is not known. But the point is clear: This remains a highly controversial plan.

In a highly competitive process, the Federal Transit Authority is unlikely to award funds to a project that not only does not have broad community support but is the subject of legal action. The best way to ensure the future of Southwest light rail would be for the Minneapolis City Council to withhold consent and send this project back for reconsideration a year from now when a full and proper EIS has been conducted, and when other reasonable alternatives to the controversial aspects of the plan have received additional study.

Steven R. Goldsmith

Heads-Up for the September 3, 2014 Park Board Meeting

Heads-Up for the September 3, 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”

Listed below are some agenda items of interest.

–Authorizing the amending of the Professional Services Agreement #C-37126 with SRF Consulting Group, Inc. Related to Preparation of a New Master Plan for the Central Mississippi Riverfront Regional Park in the Amount of $50,000 for a New Contract Total of $225,000

–Approving a Professional Services Agreement with Barr Engineering Company to Provide Design, Engineering, and Construction Administration Services for the Permanent Repair of the Failed Slope Along West River Parkway Near 4th Street South for a Not to Exceed Fee in the Amount of $634,000

-Approving the First Amendment to the Memorandum of Understanding with the Loppet Foundation for Development and Fundraising Related to the Proposed Silent Sport Center Area and Welcome Center Building at Theodore Wirth Regional Park

–Authorizing a Professional Services Agreement with Thomas Oslund and Associates, Inc., for Schematic Design, Construction Documents, and Construction Administration Services for Minneapolis Sculpture Garden Reconstruction and Cowles Conservatory Renovation for a Fee Not to Exceed $772,500

Also of interest and now available to the commissioners and the public are the monthly reports that Superintendent Miller has initiated for construction permits and for Planning Department projects. The availability of these reports is one of the important changes instituted by Superintendent Miller. They are normally in the agenda packet for the first regular meeting of the month.

The complete agenda, with staff reports, for the MPRB Board of Commissioners meeting on September 3, 2014 is at http://minneapolisparksmn.iqm2.com/Citizens/Default.aspx Board meeting agendas and related information are posted on the above web page two business days prior to meetings.

View Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board meetings live from 5-9 p.m. on the Minneapolis Government Meeting Channel 79 on Comcast Cable. You may also view live meetings online on the Channel 79 webpage: http://www.minneapolismn.gov/tv/79http://www.minneapolismn.gov/tv/79

Regular meetings are typically re-telecast on Channel 79 on Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. and on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month at 5 p.m. Telecast schedules are subject to change.

Webcasts of MPRB regular board meetings are posted on the same web page two to five business days following each meeting and are available for viewing, along with webcasts for the previous two months.

The Park Board’s website is www.minneapolisparks.org. The phone number is 612-230-6400.

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

MINNEAPOLIS PROVIDES FINAL LOCAL CONSENT FOR SOUTHWEST LIGHT RAIL

The following article by Eric Roper was published on startribune.com on August 29, 2014:

MINNEAPOLIS PROVIDES FINAL LOCAL CONSENT FOR SOUTHWEST LIGHT RAIL

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Above: The location of the proposed Penn stop along the Southwest light rail line, looking toward downtown Minneapolis.

The last local approval needed for the Southwest light rail project fell into place Friday morning with a vote from the Minneapolis City Council.

The council voted 10 to 3 to approve municipal consent after nearly an hour of speeches, many of them critical of the project’s route, its impact on the environment and the lack of urban bus amenities.

The $1.6 billion line, expected to open in 2019, would run from Eden Prairie to downtown Minneapolis. Click here to take a ground-level tour of the Minneapolis stops. Half of the funding is expected to come from the federal government.

The ‘no’ votes came from Council Members Barb Johnson, Cam Gordon and Lisa Goodman. “This route fails to serve densely populated areas of Minneapolis and ignores areas of transit-dependence in favor of suburban commuters,” Goodman said.

Several council members highlighted the lack of an updated environmental impact statement, which may fuel a lawsuit filed by project opponents. Council Member Andrew Johnson said he was confident the environmental impact will be minimal.

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LRT: PARKLAND USERS ARE THE LOSERS

The following letter-to-the-editor by Donald Wolesky was published in the August 28, 2014 issue of the StarTribune.

LRT: PARKLAND USERS ARE THE LOSERS

Wishful thinking and propaganda aside, the Southwest line is not designed to bring economic development to the North Side or to transport Minneapolis residents to suburban jobs in diffuse Eden Prairie. Its main function will be to haul suburbanites to sporting events at Target Field, the refurbished Target Center and the yet-to-be-named football palace (the Crystal Cathedral?Racketeer Field?). The beneficiaries will be those sports venues and the bars and restaurants patronized by affluent fans. The fans, in turn, need not worry about traffic or parking, and can drink themselves silly without danger of DUIs. The losers are the users of the parkland that will be sacrificed for the sake of the sedentary passengers, and of course the residents of homes near the line, whose peace and quiet will be permanently destroyed, along with their property values. Once again, development will trump livability for Minneapolis residents.

Donald Wolesky

SOUTHWEST LRT

The following letter-to-the-editor from author Louise Erdrich was published in the August 28, 2014 edition of the StarTribune.

SOUTHWEST LRT

What is Minneapolis prepared to lose?

According to the U.S. News and World Report, our city has one of the most extraordinary and extensive park systems in the world. I decided to move here in 1992 when I stood on the north side of Cedar Lake in a place left intentionally wild. It was dusk. The air was quiet. I looked at a vibrant city skyline as it began to glow. There is no other city like this, I thought. And I was right.

I found out that I was standing in a planned ecosystem that extended from Lake Nokomis to Theodore Wirth Park and beyond. Astonishingly, you could actually swim and fish in spring-fed Cedar Lake. That our City Council is voting this week on a light-rail transit route that would bisect this precious asset makes no sense. The route underserves our people, overserves Eden Prairie, and, in forever changing the character of our wildest lake perhaps changes the character of who we are, and what Minneapolis stands for. We are not spendthrifts; maintaining our infrastructure means jobs. We don’t dole out equity at the last minute to try cleaning up a project that should offer first-class service to the those who need it most. Real equity is about having fantastic transportation where the people are. Real community is about keeping our lush trails and lake clean and open to all. Not a shovel of earth has yet been dug on this project. Mayor Betsy Hodges and members of the City Council, you can still make this city’s transcendent relationship with nature your legacy.

Louise Erdrich, Minneapolis

Transit Revolution Alternative to SW Light Rail

The following article, dated July 31, 2014, is by Bob Carney Jr., candidate for 3rd District Hennepin County Commission and a former candidate for mayor of Minneapolis and was published in the on-line edition of the Southwest Journal.

A TRANSIT REVOLUTION ALTERNATIVE TO SOUTHWEST LIGHT RAIL

Minneapolis Downtown Council CEO Steve Cramer wrote in a recent Journal column: “Approving SWLRT is the critically important next step” to “leading the nation in Transportation options.”

But the $1.7 billion cost is so unsustainable it’s ridiculous. Consider just two facts:  First, at current rates we could reduce all Metro Transit fares to zero for 18 years for less than $1.7 billion.  Second, at the 2030 projected 30,000 riders a day (forget the offset for current transit riders), Southwest LRT would provide only 0.6 percent — that’s six tenths of one percent – of today’s daily metro area trips.

Here’s an alternative: a Revolutionary improvement in bus service — using inexpensive Metro Mobility size busses and lots of them.  Metro Mobility buses cost $100,000 or less – standard city buses cost $300,000 and up.

My Transit Revolution plan is based on five minute day and evening service.  We had this in 1920 — with about three times the annual riders all of Metro Transit has today.  There were no printed schedules for busy hours.  If you missed one streetcar, you could literally see the next one coming.  Our city was designed and built for and with that level of transit service.  Our entire metropolitan area can and will be congestion-free and thriving if we simply return to the frequency of Transit service we had a century ago.

Transit Revolution is also a giant job program – with thousands of part time driver jobs at $17/hr W-2 plus mandatory employer-paid benefits.   A small vehicle Transit system with five minute service is the WPA for our time.

I’m working on inventions to make shopping practical using Transit.  I’ve got a plan for a freeway grid of five minute service inside the 494-694 beltway.  With a Revolutionary improvement in Transit service households inside the beltway will need one less car… or no car.  Access to this Transit quality won’t be limited to people near a light rail line.  When we eliminate dependence on cars we will eliminate congestion.  We can also cut regulations limiting the number of people living in a house.  The result: drastically lower transit costs, and more affordable housing.  This is the best available solution to our “equity” challenge.

Let’s build a 21st century Transit system!  Let’s not build a 19th century system at 22nd century prices.

Southwest LRT: Wrong Project for Wrong Reasons

The following commentary by James Lindbeck was published on the Star Tribune’s Opinion Page on August 27, 2014:

SOUTHWEST LRT: THE WRONG PROJECT FOR THE WRONG REASONS

This is about spending federal money, not about bettering the community

The level of political gaming that comes with billion-dollar projects was apparent at last week’s final public hearing for the Southwest Corridor light-rail project at the Minneapolis City Council.

First came the remarkable admission during opening presentations that approval is being sought a year before the supplemental environmental impact statement for changes along the Kenilworth corridor is to be completed. When the speaker was asked whether he thought any concerns would be revealed in the report, he said no. I thought that the reason we do such studies is to be sure that vested interests cannot simply proclaim that everything is fine.

Even more dismaying was the strategy of presenting the project as an economic-development plan for underserved populations in Minneapolis, even though most everyone knows that the primary purpose is to serve Eden Prairie. Astounding!

By seeking to divide the interests of citizens who want to preserve parkland from those who want economic justice, the players have shunted an opportunity for us to come together around a vision of equity, transportation and environmental stewardship that is truly worthy of our city, especially at a time when Minneapolis is being recognized as a model place to live — always with an emphasis on our amazing network of parks, lakes and trails.

If Minneapolis wants to improve transportation for underserved communities, why don’t we make that the real planning priority? For instance, we could design a nation-leading network of streetcars, deluxe ones that travel along dedicated lanes with priority at intersections. Make them free to ride so that people on tight budgets could get around more easily and with less stress.

Such a network could extend to Eden Prairie using routes currently designated for light rail, with less environmental damage and more access to service. In contrast, even project planners admit that the few light-rail stations specified for north Minneapolis will be “out of the way” and “difficult to access.”

Money from the project will end up in north Minneapolis, according to testimony at the Aug. 19 hearing, presumably through the hiring of local residents and contractors. But if Minneapolis really wants to provide jobs for those in need, why don’t we devote the funds that the city will spend on Southwest light rail to developing a permanent program that hires any citizen of the city who wants work to help maintain and improve our parks and public spaces? What the light-rail project will offer instead is a few months of work cutting down trees in Kenilworth and Cedar Lake, and the setting of a horrible precedent in how we treat our parklands.

Just when I started to feel overwhelmed at last week’s hearing by the march toward this deeply flawed outcome, Louise Erdrich, whose literary voice is renowned worldwide, stood and spoke in favor of preserving Kenilworth and Cedar Lake. She presented a vision of our city in which such places are recognized as being vital and valuable. In her writings, ancestors walk from the Dakotas to Minneapolis along the very tracks that Southwest light rail plans to dominate. We should listen carefully when she offers her thoughts, as they carry a rare degree of wisdom.

Let’s be honest: Southwest light rail is all about federal money that must be spent now following the inertia of a decades-long bureaucratic process. The entities set up to receive the money and the politicians who support them are doing their best to make it palatable, but the project is not really about making Minneapolis — north, south or central — a better place to live.

Supporters would have us believe that the train is inevitable, and perhaps it is, but I have to remain hopeful as we reach the end of the approval process that a majority of the City Council will have the courage to really hear Ms. Erdrich and then stand up to say: No, thank you — we can do much better.

Southwest LRT approved by divided council committee

 

The following article by Dylan Thomas was published on August 27, 2014, in Southwest Journal’s on-line addition.

Southwest LRT approved by divided council committee

SWLRTweb0827

A Southwest Light Rail Transit opponent stood near Mayor Betsy Hodges during Wednesday’s council meetings on the project.

The full City Council takes up the question of municipal consent Friday

A divided Transit and Public Works Committee voted Wednesday to grant municipal consent for Southwest Light Rail Transit two days before the $1.65-billion project heads to the full Minneapolis City Council for a vote.

Council members Cam Gordon and Blong Yang dissented on the 4–2 committee vote, with Gordon describing himself as “conflicted” — mostly in favor of the third addition to the region’s growing light rail network but still concerned that a study of its potential environmental impact on Minneapolis lakes and groundwater won’t be complete for months. The full council vote on Friday is the last step in winning local approvals for the project.

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Arne Carlson Says Vikings Stadium Should Be Election Issue

The following article by Doug Belden was published in the August 22, 2014 issue of the Pioneer Press

Arne Carlson Says Vikings Stadium Should Be Election IssueA rendering of the proposed Vikings stadium. (Courtesy Minnesota Vikings)A rendering of the proposed Vikings stadium. (Courtesy Minnesota Vikings)

Want to know what hasn’t been an election issue but should be?

The development and financing of the new Vikings stadium, says former Gov. Arne Carlson.

“I would like to see this become a major campaign issue. It should be discussed, because it goes to the broad issue of financial management. The whole issue of due diligence, which has been absent from this project from day one. A governor who is shocked to find out that there is a 20-year old lawsuit against Zygi Wilf and then stunned to find out that they can impose a ticket tax when it’s contained in the very proposal that these people were selling to the public. They didn’t even know their own product.”

The former Republican governor and state auditor went on the offensive Friday with a broad critique of the $1 billion project.

He said team owner Zygi Wilf is not putting in enough personal money and that taxpayers are footing the bill through a poorly understood corporate loophole closure that ought to be counted as general fund money.

An aide to Gov. Mark Dayton deferred comment to Michele Kelm-Helgen, who chairs the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority.

“With all due respect Governor Carlson misses the point about the revenue,” said Kelm-Helgen.

The Legislature approved a corporate tax law change last year that is projected to provide $20 million per year toward stadium bond payments. “This is definitely a new dedicated revenue source,” Kelm-Helgen said.

And she said due diligence was done on the Wilfs, but there was no reason to believe the suit in New Jersey was more significant than a dispute over real estate. Later, the authority investigated to make sure the Wilfs could support their stadium commitments no matter the verdict, she said.

As for the Wilfs, “they are putting in real cash into this deal,” said Kelm-Helgen. Take the additional nearly $50 million contribution from the team announced Friday, for example. “They’re writing a check for this, this is cash that they’re putting in.”

The Vikings’ stadium contribution comes from a loan from the NFL, a bank loan backed by revenue from the sale of personal seat licenses, and $100 million from the owners’ personal resources.

Throughout the process, some — including Dayton — have said the Wilfs should put in more personal funds.

“Basically we have made Zygi Wilf a billionaire,” said Carlson, noting that Wilf bought the team for $600 million in 2005 and that it was valued this week by Forbes at $1.15 billion.

The Vikings issued a statement Friday saying: “While the stadium construction budget has increased, the public contribution to the project has not. The Vikings are now guaranteeing a private contribution of nearly $526 million toward this publicly-owned and operated stadium. The team has also committed to an annual rent payment of $8.5 million, the highest annual rent payment of any NFL facility.”

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Ryan’s Collins leaves Downtown East for the Arizona sun

 

The following article, which nicely summarizes the Downtown East Development, by Janet Moore was published in the August 23, 2014 edition of the StarTribune.

 

Ryan’s Collins leaves Downtown East for the Arizona sun

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Ryan Cos.’ Rick Collins, known for tackling complex projects in the Twin Cities, is taking a position in Phoenix.

Rick Collins presided over the renovation of some of Minneapolis’ best-known buildings: the Foshay Tower, Midtown Exchange and Grain Belt brewhouse.

But just as the veteran real estate developer started in on a $400 million face-lift to downtown’s eastern edge, which includes the five former Star Tribune blocks near the new Vikings stadium, Ryan Cos. promoted him to a new job in Phoenix.

The move to the Arizona capital in the dead of summer, where July temperatures average 105 degrees, has been “going well,” Collins said this past week. “I’m jumping into the middle of it.”

Meanwhile, his successor in Minneapolis, Tony Barranco, is encountering some snags with the ambitious Downtown East mixed-use project. “I’m stepping into some pretty big shoes,” said Barranco, Ryan’s vice president of development. “But we’re making progress.”

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