QUESTIONNAIRE RESPONSES FROM AT-LARGE PARK BOARD CANDIDATES
The following questions and answers appeared in the October 28, 2009, on-line edition of the Star Tribune:
QUESTIONNAIRE RESPONSES FROM AT-LARGE PARK BOARD CANDIDATES
(At-large candidates Bob Fine and Nancy Bernard did not respond)
Email: [email protected] or call 612-729-3359;
Endorsements: AFSCME Council 5, Minneapolis Building and Trades COPE, Sierra Club, Green Party, Minnesota Women’s Political Caucus, Women Winning!
Email: [email protected] or call 612-281-7611,
Endorsements: Independence Party, Republican Party
Email: [email protected] or call 612-802-3046
Web Site: http://www.tomnordykeforparks.com
Endorsements: DFL, AFL-CIO COPE, Building and Construction Trades
(Did not respond to questionnaire)
Email: [email protected] or call 612-385-6863
Organizational Endorsements: DFL Party, DFL Latino Caucus, DFL Stonewall Caucus, DFL African American Caucus, DFL Feminist Caucus, Sierra Club, AFL-CIO (Central Labor Unions), Minneapolis Building and Trades, Teamsters, AFSCME, Unite Here Minnesota: Hospitality Division, Operating Engineers #49
Phone: 612-781-0035 Website: http://www.NewDignityParty.org
Endorsements: New Dignity Party
(Did not respond to questionnaire)
MARY MERRILL ANDERSON
Email: [email protected] Website: http://www.mary4parks.org
Endorsements: DFL, DFL Feminist Caucus, DFL African American Caucus, Stonewall DFL, DFL Latin Caucus. Labor – AFSCME, Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation (AFL-CIO), MPEA, womenwinning State PAC
What’s one burning issue that’s prompted you to run for this position (25 words)
Young: Provide a responsive change to meet the needs of the users of the Park system by returning to listening to citizens and encouraging grassroots activism.
Wahlstedt: We need more public-private partnerships like the restaurants at the Calhoun and Minnehaha pavilions that bring people out, add life, and generate revenue.
Nordyke: The most burning problem for the MPRB is finding a solution to the capital and infrastructure crisis facing our parks.
Erwin: I want to proactively and collaboratively work to harness the creativity and energy of Minneapolis residents to make our generation’s unique contribution to our Park System.
Butler: Being a senior citizen myself, I want to participate in bringing more senior-friendly activities to the park system.
Anderson: I am passionate about Parks and Recreation. I know that our quality of life in Minneapolis is directly related to the benefits of a high quality Park & Recreation system. I believe that an independent and elected Park Board is the best way of protecting and managing the Minneapolis Park & Recreation System.
Should the contract of the current Superintendent, Jon Gurban, be renewed or should the Park Board begin a search for a new Superintendent? Explain your reasoning (100 words)
Young: A new search should begin looking for a person who can implement the Comprehensive and Sustainability plans developed this last 2 years with an eye to finding those who want to make change and improve the way the Park Board meets the new challenges facing the City of Minneapolis and its residents. Communications and respect for community work needs to be recognized in a more positive manner by leadership in the organization. We seem to be making lots of different constituencies mad at us; this just cannot be if we want to have people love their parks.
Wahlstedt: Since many board members are likely to be new each time a superintendent’s contract is up for renewal, we owe it to the citizens of Minneapolis to do a thorough performance review each time a to determine whether it is time for a new superintendent. We need to get 360-degree feedback – from neighborhoods, from staff, from Board and former Board members, and from peers in the industry. Then we owe it to the superintendent to discuss all that feedback with them before making our decision on renewal.
Nordyke: The Superintendent has had a good tenure at the Park Board and made his mark in a very positive way, having adroitly steered the institution through the past four years of extreme financial stress. The MPRB is in fairly good financial condition – certainly relative to the City – and that has a great deal to do with Mr. Gurban’s leadership. Having said that, the era of Superintendents serving for 30 years has passed. I think we can honor the current Superintendent’s service, but also look to the future and see 2010 as a year of transition.
Erwin: I honor the dedication and accomplishments of the current Superintendent. His commitment to the Park System is clear and admirable. Having said this, I believe the changes that need to be made to our Park System will require new skill sets and new leadership at the Staff level. Therefore, I am in favor of initiating a search for a new Superintendent that would possess many, if not all, of the skills I believe will be necessary for the growth and sustainability of our Park System including experience with grant writing and management, Foundation development, public engagement facilitation, and innovative park programming.
Butler: Despite some criticism, I favor retaining supervisor Gurban. The last search, five years ago, took a year, resulting in Gurban’s “temporary” appointment Let’s bite the bullet, give Gurban greater job security, and see what he does. Part of the problem is the Park Board itself.
Anderson: The Park Board Commissioners are in the process of evaluating the performance of the superintendent and developing the process and timeline for determining whether or not to extend the current contract. I believe that the Board needs to complete this work with our employee before we comment on this issue.
The Park Board has been attempting to work with City Hall for several years to legislate a park dedication fee, which many suburbs require. Do you favor or oppose such a fee that would require a developer to provide money or land for park purposes when a development happens? Why? (100 words)
Young: I support the fee because I believe Minneapolis is a park that has a city within it. And so all residents, businesses and institutions must treat its City and park with the care and stewardship are needed to keep this a great City to live in. Therefore, trees, green space and other natural amenities should be part of the infrastructure needs when developing projects in the City.
Wahlstedt: I would oppose this as an unnecessary complication when it comes to park funding. Further, I don’t believe it is fair to make new users of the parks pay an “entry fee” into the park system – which is what this amounts to. The rest of us all “pay as we go” and so should new residents. The property taxes from the new developments cover their fair share of park costs. New land can be acquired as needed in other ways. We don’t need further barriers to housing and business development in the city.
Nordyke: I did not vote to support the fee, but once it passed and I became President, I have been one of the principal architects of the ordinance. It is similar to the fees charged in most neighboring cities, including St. Paul. It should be implemented as soon as possible.
Erwin: I favor a park dedication fee. Minneapolis has an emphasis on providing parks, green spaces, athletic facilities and biking and walking trails to its’ citizens. Increased development results in increased park needs and use. The existing tax-based support does not support current operating costs, therefore, monies needed for additional park/facility acquisition is limited. If this fee was in place, would the MPRB have purchased Block E as a Minneapolis Central Park? Would MPRB be able to purchase other downtown property to proactively develop future neighborhood parks? A park dedication fee allows flexibility to develop such amenities where new development is occurring citywide.
Butler: No, I am not in favor of ordinances that micromanage land use and development Judge both development proposals and acquisition of land for the Minneapolis park system on their own merits. Why tie the two together?
Anderson: I strongly believe in the Park Dedication fee as a tried and true method in Minnesota especially in metro area suburbs for acquiring and developing parkland. When development occurs it creates a demand for more parkland or puts greater pressure on existing park resources, requiring greater maintance and financial resources. If we had a Park Dedication fee over the last 2 decades, many of the critical issues facing our neighborhood parks would be alleviated and the need for downtown parks would be resolved.
Do you support or oppose the proposed charter amendment that would grant greater independence to the Park Board? Why? (50 words)
Young: Although I reached consensus with my fellow Commissioners that something needed to happen I am not clear if this was the correct and best way to go about garnering our greater independence.
Wahlstedt: I oppose it at this time pending the outcome of the charter amendment mentioned below. If that fails, then I believe we should bolster the independence of the Board of Estimate with a greater number of elected representatives (3 more to make a majority) and otherwise keep the existing structure.
Nordyke: I did support it. Modeling the Park Board’s future governance after the current Three Rivers Park District makes good sense and would go a long way toward better working relationship with the City of Minneapolis.
Erwin: I support an independent MPRB as has existed for 126 years. I do not support an increased ability of City Council or the Mayor to regulate the MPRB. However, although I strongly support an independent Park Board, I do not support the ballot initiative that was circulated in July and August that would grant ‘yet to be identified’ powers to the MPRB.
Butler: No, a judge has ruled this proposal to be unconstiturional. Only the state legislature can create new governmental entities.
Anderson: I strongly support this amendment. I strongly believe that it is important to the preservation of our Park System as we know it to have an independent and elected Board accountable to the citizenry for preserving, protecting and providing Park programs and services.
Do you support or oppose the proposed charter amendment that would remove the Park Board representative from the city’s Board of Estimate and Taxation, and have the board’s powers assumed by the City Council? Why? (100 words)
Young: I am opposed to this ballot question. I would have much preferred if the voters were changing the BET to add another Park Board individual in order to maintain 7 members on the Board and continue serving as a check and balance in our system of government.
Wahlstedt: I strongly oppose this amendment. This would gut the independence of the Park Board by giving the city total control of park funding and eliminate any need for the city to consider the perspective of the Park Board in its decisions. We need to go the other direction and *reduce* the near-total control the council and mayor currently have over the BET. The checks and balances the BET provides are much more important than any “efficiency” gained by letting the city council take it over.
Nordyke: I do not support the City Council’s attempt to gain unchecked taxing authority by taking over the Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET). The BET was designed to be a check and balance against that danger – a City Council taxing and issuing debt at will with no limits. By taking over the BET the City Council will assume powers it was never intended to have and that no other City in the State has. Having the current BET set tax policy is far preferable to leaving it in the hand of a City Council majority.
Erwin: The loss of the Library Board Seat on the BET and refilling of that seat with a City Council member creates the potential for a biased BET. The Mayor’s and City Council’s concern about accountability in tax policy between them and the public and their concern about elected BET members, who may not be as familiar with City financing making tax policy decisions, are valid. I see two solutions: 1) increase the size of the BET with elected officials that are neither from the City Council or Park Board with greater access to city finances, OR 2) eliminate the BET AND have a property tax agreement (as mentioned immediately above) to not allow City Council or Mayor to have undo influence over the MPRB budget. The existing ballot initiative does not address either of these options. Therefore, I do not support this Charter amendment.
Butler: I oppose the charter amendment to remove the Park Board representative from the Board of Estimate and Taxation because that board checks the power of the city council to raise revenues and the Minneapolis park system needs a seat at the table.
Anderson: I oppose the changes to the Board of Estimate & Taxation. This Board serves many important functions, protecting the taxpayer, providing for important dialogue and dealing with the differing tax isssues of the Park Board and the City. In fact I advocate for adding an elected member to the Board replacing the Library Board. If the City Council becomes the Board of Estimate & Taxation (which I feel may have some legal issues), the Park Board just becomes an advisory board to the city council.
How would you work with the city and other parties to move forward the parks component of the 10-year-old Above the Falls plan for development of the city’s upper riverfront, and what park improvements there would be your priorities (100 words)
Young: We need to continue to improve its water quality and work on environmental restoration of the river banks. We need to work together through the new Riverfront Development Corporation to improve the River both for the region and neighborhoods along the river. Both active and leisure activities should be developed. We have done a great job at North Mississippi Regional Park – we need to continue our efforts whenever possible.
Wahlstedt: I think we need to establish a strong private-funding component of this effort before moving forward with it. The first step would be to finally establish the non-profit Upper River Redevelopment Corporation called for in the plan and to partner with and model the organization after groups like the Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota. If the plan has the ability to inspire significant charitable contributions that will be a signal that it truly has enthusiastic public support, and will also be a key component in making it viable.
Nordyke: We have worked with the City to partner in the formation of the Minneapolis Riverfront Corporation, which I think will have a substantial impact on moving the Above the Falls Plan forward. The Park Board should focus on the acquisition of land as it becomes available. Our immediate priority should be to complete the Sheridan Veterans’ Memorial Park.
Erwin: It is easy for any land use plan to not be implemented unless it is continuously used as a ‘measuring stick’ from which purchasing and zoning decisions are made. I would work within the MPRB and with the Mayor and City Council to prioritize the Above the Falls Plan; I did this while on the MPRB. Specifically, I would prioritize 1) land acquisition along the river, 2) developing a zoning policy that would require a ‘set-back’ to allow for a parkway along the river, and 3) help develop a unique citywide vision for land use on the upper and lower riverfront to increase use of and accessibility to this area. These priorities address most of the objectives of the plan.
Butler: The “Above the Falls” plan creates additional park land on the west side of the Mississippi river, connecting with various pedestrian and bike trails. I would consider adding canoe facilities to the mix. Let urban residents rent canoes on the Mississippi river and use the new park as a terminus for a shuttle between two locations.
Anderson: I support the Above the Falls master plan. The most important component is to acquire the land which would allow for the completion of the Above the Falls master plan and the completion of the Riverfront acquisition of land to complete the more than 100 year old plan to have public ownership and access to the riverfront and provide parity between South and North/Northeast Minneapolis. Because land acquisition will be a long process, I believe we should focus also on the development and finishing of the trail system on both sides of the river where we currently own land.
What’s one specific city-wide accomplishment you’d like to make happen by the end of your term? (25 words)
Young: Be well on our way with steps to developing renewable energy resources in order to get off the grid within 10 years.
Wahlstedt: Five new public-private partnerships with local businesses to generate revenue in the parks and/or on park property.
Nordyke: I would like to see all of the Parkways repaved.
Erwin: Start a ‘Green’ Minneapolis effort to increase plantings on public and private lands and waterways, establish a citywide network of ‘garden routes’ and parkways, increase community gardens, install new sustainable neighborhood sports fields, and integrate solar and recycling into parks.
Butler: The canoe shuttle would top my wish list.
Anderson: There are many things which I believe need to be accomplished or started over the next 4 years. I would like to have a sustainability plan for the Neighborhood Park & Recreation system which would includes the passage of a Park Dedication ordinance and a Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board that remains Elected & Independent.