August 18 Meeting Highlights

The meeting started at 5:00pm with the Planning Committee. Comr. Dziedzic is chairing it in Comr. Bob Fine’s absence.

** The first item of interest on the agenda was a report by staff on a proposed University of Minnesota rowing facility to be built on the east river flats, which the Park Board has owned since 1883, and had leased in the early 1970s to the University.

There is an approved master plan for a park on this property, designed around open space, open play areas and open vistas.

The original plans by the University were for a NCAA Women’s rowing team facility, and those were the plans which were presented to, discussed with and approved by the CAC (Community Advisory Committee, not sure). Since then, the University has doubled the size of the building (a 2-story flat roofed structure of fairly large size) to include a facility for the men’s rowing Club.

The University has not finalized their proposal to the Park Board, so this report was only a status report. The plans may change from those presented.

The lease arrangements have not been worked out, but there were a number of programs and scholarships proposed by the University, apparently as in-kind services in lieu of actual lease payments, including one rather strange item: a Polar Bear Plunge at Lake Calhoun.

Commissioner Berry Graves has some questions about those in lieu services. She is “insulted” by one overnight high school scholarship and is likewise insulted by another meager offer of only 3 slots in another such opportunity. She wants to see numbers for the actual number of children per clinic, activity, etc. will actually be accommodated by the University’s proposal.

Comr. Young is concerned about the appearance of the building, agreeing with some neighborhood comments about its extremely boxy appearance. She states the U has a good architecture school; why not hold a design contest? And if it’s going to have a flat roof, why not look at something like solar or green roof technology.

Comr. Erwin mentions he will have recuse himself from any votes as he works at the U but says this is a good opportunity to work more closely with U now and in the future, and that the U is likewise interested in doing that. He suggests among the items in the lease that the U be required to support 2 graduate student assistantships at the Park Board in perpetuity. He also suggests any redesign consider a more traditional boathouse such as might be seen at Yale or Harvard.

Comr. Hauser agrees with Berry Graves, Young and Erwin. Wants more city kids to benefit and thinks the building (computer drawing) is ugly.

Comr. Dziedzic says that due to Title IX, with 80 women on the NCAA rowing team and 95 men on the football team, the U really wants to do this project because it will help them meet the law. He thinks the Park Board can get a lot more from the U because of that incentive.

Comr. Berry Graves asks staff how and when did the change to include the men’s club get made.

Staff answers that the change was made right after the CAC meetings.

** Next item on the agenda was a presentation by CM Don Samuels and CM President Paul Ostrow on the two part proposal they have for getting the Salvation Army to choose Minneapolis as a location for Kroc Community Centers. [Background: McDonald’s hamburgers “heiress” Joan Kroc died and left $2 Billion to the Salvation Army for this purpose, to be divided up into $20 million “project grants.” At the last meeting, CM Ostrow presented a proposal for one such Kroc Center in Northeast Minneapolis adjacent to the Northeast Athletic Fields and Lupient Water Park.]

CM Samuels emphasized that what he was proposing was not an alternate to CM Ostrow’s previous plan, but a second half of a joint project for North Minneapolis, that is, 2 Kroc Centers in Minneapolis. His proposed location was the Jordan Park and Jordan School property along with about 13 houses to the east, in order to reach the 12 acre minimum required parcel size for the Kroc Center grant application.

Landing these centers will need to be a joint Park Board, School Board and City effort. CM Samuels says this is not a rivalry between North and Northeast, and that the Salvation Army has encouraged the city to propose both as a solution.

CM Ostrow says this is an incredible opportunity, and both Samuels and Ostrow ask the Park Board to partner with them, and support the proposal as outlined. Ostrow says the Salvation Army will provide $10 million in capital for building and construction and $10 in operating costs, but requires a matching $10 million to be raised privately. [total for such a center is thus a minimum of $30 million it appears.]

Comr. Erwin makes motion to approve the concept as presented.

Comr. Young asks how many houses will be torn down? Answer is 13. She asks if they have talked to the community about this yet. The answer is no, but CM Samuels discusses why he believes the sacrifice of the homes is worth it.

Comr. Young comments that it will cost $2 million plus to acquire and remove the homes. She asks CM Ostrow about homes at Northeast site. CM Ostrow replies by describing how Northeast has talked about a community center for years, but does not really answer the question, particularly in light of the size of a Kroc Center being so large.

Comr. Berry Graves asks about the use of the school and seconds Erwin’s motion.

Comr. Olson asks if the school board has agreed to use of Jordan school? Answer: No, but they have talked to a few of the board members. He asks if they have considered any other North Minneapolis sites. Answer: No, only Jordan Park/School site. Olson asks if Park Board will be partner in the programming. He also mentions that Salvation Army is a faith-based organization and the Park Board needs to know what they are getting into.

CM Samuels says Salvation Army will have a separate facility for worship services.

Comr. Hauser asks what commitment the city council members are asking the Park Board for. Answer: approve in concept the sites proposed, not just the idea of a Kroc Center. She asks who retains control of the land? Ostrow answers: it can be worked out.

Comr. Kummer asks what the property tax loss to the city is. Someone answers about $25,000 a year. [It seems it was a highly speculative, inexact guess to me.]

Comr. Erwin asks who will hire the staff? Ostrow answers the Salvation Army will own and operate the facilities, and thus will hire staff. Erwin says this may be a problem given the City’s equality-based hiring regulations versus the Salvation Army’s anti-homosexual policies.

Comr. Berry Graves calls the question. Says we have worked with faith-based organizations before, such as the YWCA.

Comr. Young says but the YWCA has an equality statement. She is very concerned about the Salvation Army owning and operating a facility on Park Board property.

Comr. Erwin amends his motion to move the North Minneapolis site to the North Commons in the event the Minneapolis School Board denies the usage of the Jordan School.

The Motion PASSES out of this committee.

** 6:00pm **

Planning Committee is recessed.

Regular meeting is called to order for Public Open comment time.

** First public speaker is Phil Duran of east 38th street. He is a representative of OutFront Minnesota, Minnesota’s leading GLBT organization. He wants a Park Board regulation regarding members of the opposite sex using restrooms to be revised to be in-line with a similar revision the City made to their regulation. The general wording is problematic for transgender individuals, as well as to others such as people who have opposite sex personal care attendants, and people with children of the opposite sex. Duran’s case is well prepared and he has legal information from the city’s change available. He is referred to assist. super. Mike Schmidt.

** Gary “Farland” (sp?) representing the ECCO neighborhood urges the Park Board to uphold and enforce the shoreland ordinance of the shoreland overlay district, designed to protect shore lines. ECCO has concerns about the Edgewater development. The ordinance says any development within 1000 feet of the shoreline must be no more than 35 feet high. Edgewater is 400 feet away, and they want to build much higher than 35 feet. They are asking for a variance. ECCO is opposed. The building will be highly visible, and he has some illustrations to show what it will look like from places around Lake Calhoun. He believes the ordinance should be upheld and Edgewater not be allowed to exceed the height limitation. He is referred to asst. super. Judd Rietkerk.

** Joan Berthiaume of the Minneapolis Parks Legacy Society describes the Society’s continued interest, support and backing for providing a public interpretive center to teach the public and especially children about this history of our park system in the Theodore Wirth Historic Superintendent’s House, and wants to be a part of the discussion for future use of the house.

** 6:12pm **

Regular meeting is recessed and Planning Committee is rejoined.

* Bryn Mawr Meadows planning update report by asst. super. Judd Rietkerk.

Rietkerk goes through the history of the plans, and pulls in all kinds of other plans, including former Superintendent David Fisher’s plans in 1998 to build more sports facilities in the parks, including the Ft. Snelling facility that exists today, the many and varied plans for Parade Stadium and the areas around it, the city’s north-south connector (Van White Boulevard), use of artificial turf in some of the mentioned locations, and an NFL grant used at North Commons and applied for at Parade. In 1998-1999, Brauer and Associates, Ltd. was hired and drew up plans for Ft. Snelling. In 1999-2000, the Guthrie announced it was moving, and that triggered the creation of new plans for Parade, created by Cunningham and Associates. Then somewhere in there, the City approved the north-south connector idea, but the exact location is not firm. This triggered the Park Board to hire Brauer and Associates again, this time to draw up 2 concepts for Bryn Mawr. Then there was a plan to use artificial turf at Parade Stadium. Then another contract was let to Ingraham(?) and Associates to evaluate Parade and Bryn Mawr due to the Guthrie moving to the riverside.

Much, much more detail about the various iterations of plans and NFL grants at North Commons and Parade, and the number of ball fields at Bryn Mawr, etc. were reported. Some plans emphasized softball, others emphasized youth soccer, still others had mixed adult/youth field usage. Other plans had a new stadium with Astroturf and bleachers built next to Parade and the ice arenas. There is also a plan for a banquet facility near Parade. The north-south connector has been moved since the 2000 plan. New road location resulted in having the consultants relook at plans. New plan supposedly emphasizes “quality not quantity” of sports facilities, including 3 adult/youth softball fields located on the current city impound lot. In the past 2 months, a consulting firm was paid $10,630 out of a “pre-planning” “slush” fund which had contained $303,000.

* Comr. Mason reviews the history:
— the Bryn Mawr plans were dropped several years ago when the city indicated it would not give up the impound lot and the rock crusher site (both on east side of Bryn Mawr Meadows).
— the plans were not ready to be presented to the board at this time.
— from her years of experience on planning and zoning commission, and as Park Board liaison to it in subsequent years, she learned that preliminary plans do not leave the Park Board without being marked as “DRAFT”. She has copies of the plans that Comr. Bob Fine presented to city council members, and they are not so marked.
— at least 4 commissioners had no idea the plans existed, that money was being spent on developing them.
— Bryn Mawr is in Mason’s district and Fine nor staff bothered to communicate the plans to her.
— Interim superintendent Jon Gurban initiated the discussion of the Bryn Mawr plans after a “dry run” of a staff presentation to commissioners, i.e. in their absence.
— Comr. Bob Fine “hangs around” the Park Board planning department and Rietkerk says this is how he learned about the plans which he then took to his meeting with several city council members to discuss.
— Mason was told the $303,000 “pre-planning” fund had $30,000 a year added to it until last year when money was short, yet she can find no mention of that expense, nor the fund itself in any of her many financial documents dating back years.

Comr. Bob Fine is not present, and Mason wants him to have an opportunity to explain to the full board what he was doing and why.

** 6:42pm **

Comr. Erwin says this situation could have been avoided with a few ground rules: etiquette for commissioner conduct, and the Board should be determining major new expenditures, not staff. He comments the Park Board is losing money on the Ft. Snelling athletic complex and he is hesitant to do it again.

Comr. Berry Graves comments that a reduction in the number of softball fields at Bryn Mawr, as per the most recent plan, is a bad idea. They are used intensively by adults. She also points out how mixing youth and adult field usage has been problematic in the past, and how the board has had a long term goal since 1997 of getting away from combined adult/youth field usage. She also has questions about whether the city will give up the land at the impound lot and rock crusher, and about putting kids recreation facilities on top of the known ground contamination in those areas. She wants the Park Board to set their own standard of pollution mitigation and not just use the minimum standard from some outside agency.

Comr. Young says the Heritage Park and Van White Boulevard discussions never included Bryn Mawr to her recollection. She has a number of concerns: (1) commissioners not talking to the district commissioner for the district that the plan is in, (2) talk about new development when we can’t even maintain the parks we have, (3) reserve funds usage, (4) wants a superintendent’s report at every meeting about what is going in the park departments, and (5) there are too many questions around this Bryn Mawr plan.

Comr. Olson says the board is not breaking ground at Bryn Mawr, but needs to look to the future. He believes people will support it because they need to recreate and get healthy.

Comr. Hauser asks if the artificial turf discussion mentioned by Mason was part of the pro-soccer discussion. Answer: No. Hauser thinks we need a lot more soccer fields. Hauser says a lot of words but not much of anything in substance, while playing the “it’s for the kids” card [a tactic used by a few commissioners to block off any criticism of a project
since of course, no one wants to “harm” the “kids.”] She is also worried about the loss of parking revenue from the Guthrie and about the cost of maintaining the Sculpture Garden.

Comr. Young says the issue is timing, disrespect to commissioners and a lack of reports from the superintendent. She asks what the deadline is on the NFL grant. Answer: mid September. Young points out that the land north of the Park Board HQ building (now becoming townhouses) was a lost opportunity because the Park Board did not have the money, and where will the money come from for this project?

Comr. Olson says NFL funds are for Parade, not Bryn Mawr.

Comr. Dziedzic says that staff [Gurban and Rietkerk] was taken to the woodshed tonight and he defends them, wants them to “stay creative” in spending money on project plans like this.

* Xcel’s Aesthetic Flow Plan Survey report by asst. super. Rietkerk. Staff has a number of changes they want Xcel to make to their survey which they want to use for deciding what an aesthetic flow (amount of water) over St. Anthony Falls would be. Park Board staff has a number of reasonable and intelligent suggestions on how to improve it to make it more representative of the public’s view as a whole, and how to keep it focused on the subject of the survey. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) apparently has something to do with this, as well, perhaps requiring Xcel to complete this survey.

Comr. Kummer comments on a previous Park Board resolution requiring some minimum desired flow over the falls, and apparently completely confuses the changes the staff wants to request from Xcel over Xcel’s survey to determine a “public” number with that resolution.

** 7:20pm **

Planning Committee adjourns.

Administration and Finance Committee, chaired by Hauser, is called to order.

* Item 7.1 asking that the board adopt a resolution requesting the maximum certified tax levy increase for 2005 (4%).

Comr. Dziedzic says that is 4% on top of full market value as limited market value is going away, along with the assessor raising the value of homes, and to keep that in mind during the budgeting process.

Asking for the maximum, can’t go above it, but can go below it.


* Organization Restructuring Report by Jeff Schoenbauer, a consultant from Brauer and Associates, Ltd., presented on behalf of Interim superintendent Jon Gurban. Schoenbauer has been working on this plan for 4 years. He says they are doing the “heavy lifting” to change the organization. His most key point of his 30 minute presentation is that the “plan had to be organization driven and able to stand on its own.” He clearly positions himself to continue in his role, and likewise positions current executive management of the Park Board to stay in place. Much of what he says sounds very good, but much of it is also standard operating procedure for any competent executive, and is well known in the corporate world. His descriptions are very much “buzz word compliant” and full of the emotional strokes that people need to hear to feel good about what they are hearing. He sells the commissioners on the big reorganization plan that has been developed. There is a lot of good and valid information and change contained within it. He outlines what the new management organization chart will look like with cross-discipline teams under 3 district managers, beneath 2 general managers beneath the superintendent, instead of functional “silos” which discourage communication and cooperation between employees in different departments. He talks about how employee morale has increased since Gurban rekindled interest in this reorg plan (remember, he’s been working on it 4 years).

A number of Park Board staff members then give their personal testimonials about how excited and positive they feel about the process and proposed changes, including Deb Pilger from operations, Jennifer Ringold from planning, assistant superintendent Mike Schmidt, Mary Lyn Pulscher, assistant superintendent Don Siggelkow, and Eileen Kilpatrick.

Consultant Schoenbauer says it will take 2 to 3 years from adoption to complete the entire reorganization effort. Once it is completely, then work on a Comprehensive Plan can be begun.

* Comr. Olson thanks Schoenbauer and staff, and support the re-org effort.

Comr. Erwin supports the re-org effort but says commissioners need to be involved early on in these kinds of proposed changes. Suggests a staff/commissioner retreat.

Comr. Mason supports the re-org efforts in all ways, and keeping the board in the loop is the one issue she has.

Comr. Kummer applauds their efforts and has a question about the 3 district map.

Comr. Young commends the staff and is also concerned about keeping the commissioners in the loop. Changes must be approved by the board.

Comr. Dziedzic holds up a sign that says “9.7”

Comr. Berry Graves says the plan needs discussion, in particular the 3 district arrangement.

Comr. Young moves acceptance of report and move plan to full board. Comr. Dziedzic seconds.

Motion PASSES with 2 opposed, Berry Graves and 1 other that I did not catch.

** 8:30pm **

[by this time, reporters from the Star Tribune and SW Journal were long gone and missed the following fireworks.]

Admin & Fin Committee adjourns.

Regular meeting is rejoined.

Comr. Olson calls for modifications to agenda.

Comr. Mason has a number of items, including those not addressed at the canceled meeting.

Olson gets into a heated discussion with Mason and Young about which items can be included, and which ones he is going to delay further by pushing them through committees.

Comr. Dziedzic comments “we will be here all night.”

Mason points out it would not have been a problem if the last meeting had not been canceled by a virtual boycott by 5 commissioners.

Olson disagrees about what the calendar said about last week’s meeting. Not all items get put on tonight’s agenda.

Comr. Erwin states that staff should have had the items on the agenda since they were brought up in the last committee before the full board.

Agenda approved.

** 8:40pm **

* Petitions and Communications

Commissioners described letters and petitions they had received, nothing earth shattering here.

* Reports From Officers — none.

* Consent Business. Fairly perfunctory approval of all items, including re-org plan, change to ordinance to allow liquor license at Calhoun Refectory (Tin Fish), and maximum levy.

* Superintendent Search Update by Mary Page.
1. Public Input at last meeting — Oldani Group’s Andrea Sims took copious notes
2. Recruitment draft materials sent to board for review
3. Contact with commissioners coming Thursday/Friday(?)
4. Time line — moved back 2 weeks with Nov. 29 suggested final selection date instead of first week of November.

Comr. Mason says all looks ok except the draft ad from the recruitment materials.

Comr. Dziedzic objects to the “turmoil on the board” phrase in the recruitment brochure, but Oldani will tell any serious applicant what the situation is.

Comr. Young says ad is lousy and the “turmoil” phrase needs rewording.

** 9:08pm **

* New Business

* Comr. Berry Graves discusses a letter to the board from People For Parks. There seems to be a staff memo associated with this referring to some problems with release of funds and a disputed problem that goes back 3 and a half years. People For Parks is a non-profit 501(c)3 independent organization which has raised money for specific projects in the parks with approval of the Park Board. The recent letter is asking for specific approval of 3 small projects in Longfellow Gardens for which fund raising has started. But staff wants to resolve the old issue about getting funds released to pay for work the Park Board did in the past and for which People For Parks was presumably going to pay.

Jim Parsons, current president of People For Parks is present and addresses the situation at the request of the commissioners. He describes some of the history of the situation, making it clear that he was not involved with People For Parks, having resigned, during the time the unpaid work was done, and that he only recently came back to the organization and became its president. He appeared at the last meeting of the Park Board requesting action on the approval of the 3 projects in Longfellow Gardens because [apparently] requests to the staff were going no where. And that is what he was prepared to talk about tonight. He had no idea that the issue of the past 3.5 years would be brought up and associated with his request.
[It seems to me that what happened is that staff, probably Mike Schmidt or at his direction, attached a memo to the letter that Parsons wrote when it was distributed to commissioners and the interim superintendent. It appears this memo outlines complaints about not getting paid for the historical work. It’s not exactly clear. What is clear is that there has been some sort of impasse between the Park Board and People For Parks for some time.]

Parsons makes a number of points about the actions he has taken. Parsons met with interim super. Jon Gurban and asst. super. Mike Schmidt regarding the 3 projects in Longfellow, and at that time Gurban resurrected the past problems. However, Parsons points out that at no time has the Park Board ever been able to put anything in writing quantifying the amount due and what for, that is, there have never been any invoices or documentation. Further, all of this was during a time when Parsons was not a part of the organization. Parsons wants the current project addressed, not held up while a problem which has not been resolved for 3.5 years continues to not be resolved.

Comr. Olson cuts Parsons off saying the hour is late.

Comr. Erwin proposes two meetings between the two organizations, one to address solely the past problem with release of funds for completed projects, and one to solely address the current proposed projects for Longfellow Gardens.

Asst. super. Mike Schmidt wants an agreement on past before moving forward, and wants details in 3 parts on new project before approving.

Comr. Olson asks if Parsons knows where the money is [money in People For Parks control].

Parsons points out that until February of this year [if I remember correctly], all of the accounting for People For Parks was actually done by the Park Board accounting department, but ultimately yes, he does know.

Comr. Kummer thinks the plans for Longfellow are great but didn’t know about the past problems.

Comr. Young states the board needs a working agreement between the two organizations. She suggests that comr. Kummer and asst. super. Schmidt be part of a team to negotiate such an agreement, cognizant of what the Parks Foundation is doing, as well.

Comr. Olson appoints comr. Erwin and comr. Kummer to take on this effort.

** 9:30pm **

* Discussion of the Park Police move to the HQ building:

Interim super. Gurban drones about the “memo of August 10 which addresses this” and apologizes for not being able to be at the August 4 meeting [where this issue came up]. He says it is a space situation [current police facilities are over-crowded] and that a “couple of commissioners had stopped by the office” and were “polled.” The plans for this move range from back of napkins to more. He formed a couple of “focus groups” to figure out the problem. He states no construction work downstairs in the HQ building has been done for such a move [several commissioners and members of the public heard rumors that such had happened].

Comr. Mason says that she has actually seen formal plans drawn up by an outside contractor for offices on the lower level of the HQ building for the Park Police. She wants to know the cost of the plans and the cost of actually doing the construction work and moving the police. Staff had told Mason that the work was to start on August 2 but did not know why it had not started.

Gurban says he is not prepared to answer those questions tonight but can prepare a report and answers. He claims he has always communicated the same information to all commissioners.

Comr. Olson defends Gurban’s activities.

Comr. Young is concerned about money being spent on plans. Where is the fund from which this money is coming? How much is in it? How is it being spent?

Comr. Dziedzic [agitatedly] states that he has been in elected office since 197? (198?) and has never seen so much disrespect to [agency] staff. He says if it happens again, “I’m gonna get loud.” Then he raises his voice and loudly and angrily says, “I’m gonna get real loud.” Dziedzic then continues to loudly and angrily relate, “I remember a fistfight at a school board meeting…” making a fist with his own hand.

Comr. Berry Graves interjects: “Is that a threat?”

Dziedzic [now bellowing and pounding the table with his fist] shouts, “That’s a fact!”

Meanwhile Berry Graves is repeating her question, Comr. Olson is calling for order, ultimately having to bang the gavel repeatedly to get people’s attention. There is a moment of pandemonium before quiet and order is restored.

Comr. Kummer says she thinks Gurban’s action is fine, it is what he should do to do his job.

Berry Graves points out that the question is not whether solving office space problems is appropriate but rather that the whole financial deal approved by the board for the purchase of the HQ building was built upon the idea that the entire lower level would be leased out to other organizations/companies so that the lease revenue would pay off the loan (mortgage) on the building. To then remove that lease income by moving the police into the building without board approval is the problem.

Comr. Olson says they will get the figures for the building from staff.

Berry Graves says this problem could have been avoided had staff communicated with the board.

Comr. Hauser defends the move of the police department, and says the idea of having the police in the new HQ building was talked about [informally] in the past [but was not formalized as the lease arrangement was].

Comr. Dziedzic gives his “second speech” as he puts it, about trust being a two way street [and another characteristic is also a two way street — was it respect? not sure]. He criticizes some elected officials without naming names.

** Meeting adjourns at 9:48pm **