Feb. 18 Park Board meeting highlights

Here are the highlights of the most recent (Feb. 18) commissioners
meeting as recorded by Jason Stone who was in the audience.

Attendance was light at the Park Board meeting this evening, although
for about five minutes the excited Skipperliner entourage helped
fill the space up.

There was a lot of BAU (Business As Usual), but there were several
items of note. True to form, the juicy stuff happened at the end
of the meeting.

My biased reflections below, rooted in as much fact as my poor
memory can muster

Jason Stone

Charter Commission

It has recently come to the attention of the Board that the City
is working on revising its Charter, with significant potential
ramifications to the independence of the MPRB. Ostensibly, the
Charter revisions were intended to simply and update the language
of the existing Charter. Counsel Brian Rice advises that the current
draft (Draft 4) of the revised Charter carries verbiage that
significantly reduces the power of the MPRB, reducing its role to
that of a city department (at least in the eyes of the City).

Needless to say, there was considerable consternation regarding
this new development. Most concerning however, is that this new
development is actually an old development. Apparently someone
from the City sent a letter to President Fine and all MPRB Commissioners
about a year ago regarding the initiative to update the Charter.
The letter, I believe, requested the involvement of the Park Board
in the revision process. President Fine denies that he ever received
this letter and nobody admits to having heard of this issue before.

Commissioner Fine was President Fine when this issue began. Quotes
from Commissioner Fine with respect to the revisions-in-progress
of the Charter include “What happened to this process? ” and
“How did it get so far?”

The MPRB getting blindsided by this is quite odd given that
Commissioner Diedzic’s daughter is on the Charter Commission.

There was conjecture about the effectiveness of a City effort to
reduce the powers of an organization legislated into existence by
the State, and with power that extends beyond city limits.

Commissioner Mason requested of President Olson that she be appointed
to the Charter Review Commission (after having received a new request
from the Commission for an MPRB Commissioner or staff member to
participate). President Olson indicated that he himself would fill
the role. Commissioners Berry Graves and Young, along with Legal
Counsel, all indicated their support for Commissioner Mason filling
this appointment, or at the very least joining President Olson.
President Olson dismissed all requests that he be accompanied by
Commissioner Mason.

Obviously, this is a very important issue that could use several
sets of eyes. It appears to me that President Olson’s need to either
consolidate power or punish Mason for transgressions (going public?)
supercedes the desire to ensure the ongoing independence of the
Park Board.

Cable Broadcast of Meetings

A presentation was made to the Board on several options for
broadcasting MPRB meetings on local cable access. The cost would
be about $20k/year amortized over seven years to procure equipment,
cabling, circuits, etc to host the broadcasting in MPRB HQ.

The cost associated with broadcasting using the existing infrastructure
of the City Council chambers was presented as around $20k, $5,700
of which was for parking. The major distinction is that the
infrastructure at City Hall would be studio quality while broadcast
facilities at MPRB HQ would be minimalist.

I wonder if the City could sweeten the deal for the MPRB to broadcast
from the City Council chambers. It seems rather silly for one
portion of the city to make an expensive, redundant capital investment
when very expense equipment will be sitting idle.

The majority response was positive on the idea of broadcasting
meetings, with a few Commissioners questioning how many people would
watch. I wonder if they are intentionally missing the point.

Excursion Boat

The board authorized staff to negotiate and execute a 10 year
contract with Skipperliner with a 5 year option. Someone (Berry-Graves
perhaps?) briefly questioned the wisdom of such a long contract,
but the motion passed anyway.