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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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Heads-Up for the September 17, 2014 Park Board Meeting

4:45 CLOSED SESSION.  Committee of the Whole will discuss a proposed Workers Compensation settlement.  Closed to the public.

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.

5:20 P.M.  ADMINISTRATION AND FINANCE COMMITTEE

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:

–Design services agreement with HGA, Inc., for the Wirth Park Adventure and Welcome Center in an amount not to exceed $400,000 (the Adventure and Welcome Center was provided for in the Loppet Foundation agreement).

–Increasing the amount of a contract with Applied Ecological Services Inc. for removing cattails from Loring Pond.

–Increasing the amount of a contract with SRF Consulting Group for preparation of the Master Plan for the Central Mississippi Riverfront Regional Park.

The complete agenda, with staff reports, for the MPRB Board of Commissioners meeting on September 17, 2014 is at http://minneapolisparksmn.iqm2.com/Citizens/Default.aspx .  Board meeting agendas and related information are posted on this web page two business days prior to meetings. 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.

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.

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/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.

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

Lawsuit Filed Over Southwest LRT Environmental Review

The following article by Dylan Thomas appeared in the September 10, 2014 online edition of the Southwest Journal.

Lawsuit Filed Over Southwest LRT Environmental Review

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George Puzak, a former Park Board commissioner, spoke Monday for the Lakes and Parks Alliance of Minneapolis.  Dylan Thomas

Lakes and Parks Alliance of Minneapolis wants a federal judge to void municipal consent votes

A Minneapolis citizens group filed suit in federal court Monday aiming to halt work on the $1.65-billion Southwest Light Rail Transit project until an environmental impact study is completed.

The Lakes and Parks Alliance of Minneapolis is asking a federal judge to nullify the municipal consent votes cast by the five cities on the 16-mile light rail route and Hennepin County. It argues the Metropolitan Council violated state and federal laws by forcing the votes to approve or disapprove the design before an environmental study of a shallow tunnel in Minneapolis’ Kenilworth Corridor was completed.

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Group files lawsuit to stop Southwest light-rail line


The following article by Janet Moore was published in the August 9, 2014 edition of the Star Tribune.

Group files lawsuit to stop Southwest light-rail line


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A Minneapolis group says the impact on the Kenilworth corridor needs more study.

Just nine days after Minneapolis officials approved the Southwest Corridor light-rail line, a group of residents filed suit in federal court seeking to block the controversial $1.65 billion project — at least until more environmental studies are done along a key spur of the transit route.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis by the Lakes and Parks Alliance of Minneapolis, names the Federal Transit Agency, the Metropolitan Council and its chairwoman, Susan Haigh, as defendants.

The Alliance charges that the Met Council, the regional planning agency overseeing the project, and other governmental bodies violated national and state environmental laws when approving the light-rail route through the “environmentally sensitive” Kenilworth corridor that bisects Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles.

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Vikings stadium funding plan should be formally reviewed

The following guest commentary by Former Governor Arnie Carlson and Former City Council Member Paul Ostrow was published in the September 7, 2014 issue of the Star Tribune.

Vikings stadium funding plan should be formally reviewed

2014_09_09_stadium_image

Can we make lemonade out of a lemon?

Article by: Arne Carlson and Paul Ostrow

All too often, the human tendency is to compound one big mistake with a series of additional mistakes in the hope that somehow the results will improve. This appears to be the case with the Vikings stadium.

Minnesota has considerable experience in putting together partnerships involving government and the private/nonprofit sectors. This includes not only the arts but sports teams as well. We do this because it is part of our quality of life.

The most recent example involved the Twins stadium. Regardless of one’s philosophical views, we generally agree that the process was open, well-understood by the public and professionally managed. Sadly, the opposite is true with the Vikings stadium. It has been plagued by a high degree of secrecy, too little professional planning, a lack of due diligence and financial analysis, and an overdose of misleading propaganda. The bottom line is that the sizzle of the project should not blind us to the financial realities.

It is important to formally review, and potentially reopen, the current financial arrangement.

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Unrealistic Expectations for The Yard

Park Watch Comment: On August 26, Park Watch submitted to the Star Tribune a commentary letter regarding an August 18 Star Tribune editorial supporting the Yard.  Park Watch looked for but did not see any other public opinion letters responding to the editorial.  We believe that the editorial needed reader comment and were disappointed when our letter went unpublished.
Therefore, we are posting it here on Park Watch for those who are interested to see.

Editorial Pages
Minneapolis Star Tribune

Editor:

UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS

We are writing to express our disappointment with the StarTribune’s recent editorial “Full Speed Ahead For The Yard, ” which was characterized by false and misleading statements.  Here are some of our comments.

The editorial’s comparison of the Yard to Millennium Park is false and misleading.  Millennium Park doesn’t have a NFL football team associated with it as does “The Yard”;  Millennium Park does not have to be shared with a major league sports team which has priority scheduling.  The Vikings and MSFA have both priority scheduling and FREE USE of the Yard and capture ALL proceeds from concession sales.

The fact is that the Yard, unlike Millennium Park, is really two entities.  One entity is what it will be when there is a Vikings or MFSA event using it.  Probably lots of tents and concessions or maybe just one very large tent covering the entire area.  The second entity will be whatever the Park Committee’s vision will be, subject to the restrictions placed on its design and use by the Vikings and the MSFA.  The reality is that these restrictions will have a major impact on the expectations being generated.

The editorial asserts that there is ambiguity about who can own and operate parks in Minneapolis.  That is a false assertion as there is no such ambiguity.  Minneapolis has an acclaimed park system and an independent park board which was established specifically to create and operate public parks for the citizens of Minneapolis.

In his Hennepin County district court ruling on December 20, 2013 Judge Dickstein completely rejected the City’s claims that it had authority to acquire or operate parks, squares or plazas in the City.  Specifically Judge Dickstein stated “the Court rejects the City’s argument that the Council has power, concurrent with the Park Board to purchase, devise, maintain and operate city parks.”

As for lack of green space downtown, isn’t Gold Medal Park green space?  And, while it is privately maintained and controlled, it was created for public enjoyment without cost to Minneapolis taxpayers.

We believe that, before charging ahead with the Yard as the editorial urges, the City has a responsibility to first conduct a feasibility study regarding the Yard and to also let the taxpayers know all the details of the funding for the Yard.  Accordingly, on July 1,  Park Watch submitted a Data Request to the City Clerk’s office requesting detailed information regarding the financial arrangements with the Vikings and the MSFA.  We are still waiting for those documents to be available.

Arlene Fried,
Co-founder of Park Watch
Harvey Ettinger,
Member of Park Watch
http://www.mplsparkwatch.org

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

2014_08_31_Penn_sta_location

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