Monthly Archives: October 2004

Park Board Meeting

Regularly scheduled meeting.

Agenda documents in Adobe Acrobat PDF format can be found and downloaded from this location. These are viewable with a commonly available, free to download viewer (you probably already have it).

Brief outline:
5:00pm — Legal Review Committee
** Report from Brian Rice on how he spends our money

5:20pm — Planning Committee
** 30 minute report on Bassett’s Creek
** 30 minute report on Calhoun Yacht Club

6:00pm — Regular meeting of entire board
** Public Open Time
** Superintendent’s Report
** Approval of policies and process for Superintendent Search

6:30pm — Administration & Finance Committee
** Approve negotiation of purchase agreement with Columbia Development LP (Lucky Club LLC) for the former Fuji Ya site.
** 2005 Preliminary Budget Review (30 – 45 minutes)

MPRB Files Legal Documentation Against Crown Hydro Eminent Domain Usage with FERC

A 32 page filing by Park Board legal counsel with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) arguing why Crown Hydro should not be allowed to use eminent domain to take property at Mill Ruins Park to build a hydropower plant. This includes much historical information about how the Park Board acquired the property initially, in particular pieces originally belonging to Fuji-Ya, Inc.

Some highlights:

“As explained more fully below, the Park Board acquired this property for park and/or recreational purposes prior to October 24, 1992. Therefore, the land cannot be taken by eminent domain under the FPA. Further, Crown Hydro voluntarily waived any right it might have to exercise eminent domain over this property in an agreement with the Park Board in 1998 to induce the Park Board to even consider Crown Hydro’s proposal.”

“Finally, were FERC to have any question about the inapplicability of the public park provision of §21 of the FPR or the waiver by Crown Hydro to forego the use of eminent domain because of some Alice in Wonderland argument that in the future could be proffered by Crown Hydro, FERC should not doubt the Park Board’s resolve to protect land it owns from unwanted use or encroachments. The central purpose of the Park Board is to control, govern and administer the land it holds for its citizens and the larger public interest. The Park Board will not willingly cede that authority and responsibility to any governmental or private entity.”

“In conclusion, it is the Park Board’s position that any attempt by Crown Hydro to secure the Park Board’s property by eminent domain is contrary to law. The Park Board therefore requests that FERC deny any further requests for extensions from Crown Hydro which concern Crown Hydro taking Park Board land.”

October 20 Meeting Highlights

Another Park Board meeting marred by lack of honest discourse took place on October 20. Some highlights and lowlights of that meeting follow.

* The Standards & Conduct committee, consisting of [strangely only] 3 members, commissioners Carol Kummer, John Erwin and Bob Fine was called to order by chairman Kummer. It ostensibly would consider commissioner Vivian Mason’s letter of complaint about commissioner Walt Dziedzic’s assaultive misconduct at the August 18, 2004 meeting. In fact, it was a joke, worse than a kangaroo court.

First counsel Brian Rice spent a lengthy time reading aloud (with a severe lack of enunciation which made it difficult to understand what he was saying) from Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure used by the State Legislature regarding the meaning of “disorderly words.” Rice eventually renders an opinion that the committee or board is free to censure Dziedzic if they so choose.

Kummer then stated that Park Police chief Bradley Johnson says that no assault, battery or terrorism was committed by Dziedzic, a former-police officer and the Park Police department’s strongest supporter. “It’s nice to own the Park Police” commented an audience member at this point. [This is quite in contrast to several commissioners several members of the public in the audience present at that meeting who personally felt threatened with violence, including this writer.] Then Kummer allows Commissioners Dziedzic and Mason to speak.

Mason says she initially did not file a formal complaint but instead simply wrote a letter to Dziedzic asking for an apology, but not only was such not forthcoming, it would not even be mentioned.

Dziedzic refuses to speak saying he will let the record stand for itself. [considering that the record includes 2 separate video recordings of Dziedzic losing his temper and threatening commissioners with violent assaults, it seems one would only stand on such a record if one knew the fix was in and no punishment would be forthcoming]

Kummer thinks that Dziedzic’s views could have been expressed more delicately, but that they do not “rise” to the level of “disorderly words.”

Kummer allows commissioner Rochelle Berry Graves to speak, though she is not on this 3-person committee.

Berry Graves stated that she had felt directly threatened and intimidated by Dziedzic’s behavior, and was very disturbed and even had to visit a doctor as a result of the stress. She states she wants this behavior to stop. She states that this committee has taken action in the past when behavior put the Park Board in a bad light.

Bob Fine, in a classic example of blaming the victim for asking for her assault, makes a MOTION that turns the whole issue on its head. Taking his trademark insulting lecturing tone, he instead blames other commissioners for being disrespectful, “talking out of turn” [horrors!] and “berating the staff” [asking questions that the taxpayers they represent would want them to ask], and then claims that Dziedzic did not conduct himself in a disorderly way. Fine was NOT PRESENT at the August 18 meeting in question. [this must be the “best defense is a strong offense” methodology]

Commissioner John Erwin states that the board needs to define what precisely constitutes disorderly conduct, and that he personally believes that Dziedzic’s behavior was disorderly. He agrees the board has a problem, and asks where do we go from here? Do we make an example of Dziedzic? In a conciliatory move, he says he does not think making an example is the best choice and suggests that all members of the board need to work to improve relationships and respect.

Kummer allows commissioner Annie Young, who is not on the committee to speak.

Young, in a heartfelt emotional way apologizes for her lapses in speaking out of turn. She says she knew about the case in 1975 when Vivian Mason’s late husband Jack Mason was assaulted during a School Board meeting by a school employee at the time Dziedic made reference to it in his verbal assault and threat made during the August 18 meeting. In a very shaky voice, Young says she will commit herself to improving her behavior in following Robert’s Rules of Order, and that she does think that Dziedzic owes Mason an apology [note that Young was the person speaking immediately before Dziedzic began his violent outburst on August 17]. She repeats she will make a commitment if the other 8 commissioners will do so.

Kummer says something about looking into further meetings of this committee.

Erwin makes a Substitute Motion to Fine’s [ridiculous] Motion, recognizing that Dziedzic was disorderly but that the board take no further action.

Vote is taken: Erwin votes Yes; Kummer and Fine vote No. Fails 2 to 1.

Fine’s original motion is voted upon: Erwin votes No; Kummer and Fine vote Yes. Motion passes 2 to 1.

Fine quickly moves to adjourn. Committee adjourns.

[Public comments on this meeting of the Standards and Conduct committee, here below and also at the Star Tribune, here and here.]

* Cable TV broadcast begins

In President Jon Olson’s absence, Vice President John Erwin calls the regular meeting to order.

* Public Hearing on Special Assessments on properties along West Nokomis Parkway and Minnehaha Parkway.

Staff gives brief presentation on how the tax will work and on the projects being paid for.

No one from the public was present comment.

* Erwin recesses regular meeting to that Legal Review Committee can meet.

* Chair Bob Fine calls Legal Review Committee to order. The ostensible purpose of this committee is to review the quality and price of legal services provided to the Park Board.

Asst. Super. Don Siggelkow gave a brief overview of the Park Board’s expenditures and some comparisons to other cities. The vast majority of about $484,000 in legal and lobbying fees are paid to Brian Rice’s law firm. Maryann Campo was several tens of thousands for lobbying and Berkeley was paid about $40,000 for workers compensation. The balance was to Rice. The 5 [!] surveys sent to the 9 commissioners which were returned uniformly rated Rice highly. [one might ask where Rice was when the Park Board failed to get a performance bond written into the contract with The Fort, LLC, which would have avoided the multi-million dollar liens and litigation the Park Board now faces over the 201 building at Ft. Snelling]

Walt Dziedzic clarifies that only 5 of 9 surveys were returned. He says the services performed were “great.” “I’ll be making a motion to rehire Rice, Michels and Johnson…”

Fine says no motion is needed as the Park Board hires the counsel at the annual meeting held in January.

Carol Kummer mentions the city’s lobbyists.

Vivian Mason says the board needs to define clearly and separate legal services versus lobbying. She could not fill out the survey because had inadequate information about what services the legal counsel actually performed for the Park Board. She also mentions concern that there may be conflict of interest in legal advice from someone who also acts as a lobbyist for other clients.

John Erwin would also like to know more about what counsel did for Park Board, and asks if there is some way to have counsel make a presentation on how the legal fees are spent.

Marie Hauser asks Siggelkow a question involving basic arithmetic in calculating legal fees alone without lobbying fees.

Fine provides cover for Rice by claiming that client-attorney privilege makes it impossible for Rice to make a public presentation to the Park Board, etc. [ok, how about a private presentation to all of the commissioners? They are the client in this relationship, after all]

Mason would like the general categories in the survey explained as to what kinds of legal services might be performed in each on behalf of the Park Board.

Erwin asks if things are changing over time? Has price gone up or down? More legal problems or less, etc.

Fine says he will call this committee again at the first meeting in November and will hear a report from counsel [which of course will be of limited value to the commissioners if he can’t speak freely in public].

Dziedzic says “I’m sure Brian would be glad to come in” and suggests that Maryann Campo do the same.

Fine again points out this committee is only concerned with legal review, not lobbying.

Dziedzic says they go hand in hand.

* Committee adjourned.

* Chair Annie Young calls the Operations & Environment Committee to order.

* Staff gives a report on the Dutch Elm Disease problem and program. 2003 was the 3rd highest year, after 1977 (1st) and 1978 for the largest number of trees lost to Dutch elm. Among the results: there is a backlog of 8000 tree stumps which need to be ground before further planting at those locations can happen. This would cost an additional $700,000 if the money were available. As a result of the high volume, lots of overtime was worked and the contract with the union pays in compensatory time off instead of cash, so now they are short-handed until all the time off is used. This means routine tree trimming and such maintenance will be limited, resulting in possibly higher liability claims against Park Board when untrimmed trees fall on cars, etc. The program is already about $350,000 to $500,000 over budget. Asst. Super. Mike Schmidt says they have some ideas and plans, and they will be presenting them during the budget hearings in November.

* Dziedzic has a number of comments and questions. (1) He says he is impressed with the presentation. (2) He asks how Dutch Elm program is paid for at Gross Golf Course. Answer: removal costs come from the general forestry fund, not the gold course enterprise fund. The latter pays for trimming and planting only. (3) Do we sell any trees to lumberyards? Answer: No, but it is something being looked at for next year. (4) Comment on injection method of vaccinating trees? Answer: not something staff is recommending the Park Board get into right now, but it is a workable solution for private homeowners.

Hauser asks several questions: (1) What are the 10 hour days and compensatory time off? [Mike Schmidt did just describe this not more than a couple minutes ago.] Answer: we give time off instead of paying cash overtime as part of the union contract. (2) We need $300,000 to grind stumps. Does that mean we can’t plant if there is no money? Answer: Yes, in general. (3) We have both money and personnel issues, right? Answer: Yes.

Erwin praises the staff for an exemplary job on addressing the Dutch Elm disease problem. He asks how are the diseased trees found. Answer: 10 to 14 scouts during the growing season when trees have leaves.

Berry Graves asks if the bark is stripped from removed trees. Answer: No, grinding entire tree into small pieces is all that is necessary to stop the elm bark beetle from using the wood. (2) How will they deal with safety issues of untrimmed trees, in particular car accidents where stop signs are not visible because of untrimmed trees? Answer: Will have to deal with such situations on an emergency basis (upon notification of a problem).

* Presentation by staff on the Lowry Park “Seven Pools” fountain. Fountain has historically drained to storm sewer, which is wasteful of water and costs Park Board about $10,000 a year in sewer charges. Fountain is being changed at a cost of about $30,000 to use a recirculating pump, which should pay for itself in about 3 and a half years.

Mason comments that the Lowry Hill neighborhood is very pleased with the work and the cooperative effort between the neighborhood and the Park Board in getting this change made.

* Operations & Environment adjourned

* Erwin reconvenes the Regular Meeting for Public Open time.

* Ivan Syhaivsky(?) of 52xx West Lake Nokomis Parkway thanks the Park Board for all that they’ve done. He then questions why his special assessment is so high — “why you charge me so much?” [English is not his first language] He details the particulars of his property versus neighbors, and of a 6′ retaining wall belonging to the park[?] which has been repeatedly replaced and repaired. He gives figures which show his assessment is 6 to 4 times higher than his immediate neighbors. Why, he asks?

Erwin refers him to Siggelkow to find out.

Berry Graves comments they should be sure to check for an error.

Young moves that Regular Meeting be recessed so that Admin committee can meet, so that it’s item can get moved to full board.

* Hauser calls Administration & Finance Committee to order.

* Action Item 7.1 approving WSB & Associates to provide engineering and construction services for Victory Memorial Parkway bike trail for a fee not to exceed $154,950.

Young moves approval and move to full board.

Dziedzic asks if this amount is the entire bid? Answer: Yes.

Hauser asks if it was the lowest or best bid? Answer: Lowest.

[Member of the public comments that Dziedzic’s favorite company did not get the bid.]

* Hauser recesses Admin & Fin.

* Erwin reconvenes regular meeting.

* Hauser wants to add Mary Page (staff) to report on Superintendent search to agenda. Young moves this be done after reports. Approved.

** Reports of Officers

[Interim superintendent Jon Gurban is absent.]

Asst. Super. Rietkerk reports on obtaining a perpetual easement on 8 acres of CP Rail property near 47th and Osseo Road. Site has been cleaned up of contamination to 4′ below grade but they have to allow access to CP Rail in future for continuing testing. Park Board has no liability for existing pollution [in theory]. He also reports that Richfield Road, except a small detour up the hill, is now open after a long repaving project.

Asst. Super. Schmidt reports on the Minnesota Development Football League. The Park Board is waiving fees and rental fees, and will develop 2 football fields at Ft. Snelling for use by the League. [they’ve already spent over $16 million in capital costs at Ft. Snelling and it loses money each year, so how are they going to afford this, especially not charging for the usage?]

Dziedzic comments that the Football League is playing tonight at the Dome, should someone want to go see them.

Berry Graves remarks that she actually attended the Folwell game (which they won) last night at the Dome. She said the kids were hyped to be playing at the Dome.

Mary Page reports on Superintendent search. Applications were closed on October 8 and the Oldani Group had 25 applications as of the 15th. Oldani can present in person the 10 semi-finalists. November 30 and December 1 are scheduled for interviews and December 1 for public input. There is some talk about swapping a couple of dates so that things happen in a logical fashion.

** Consent Business

2.1, 2.2, and 2.3 moved and approved.

** Standing Committees

— Admin & Fin

7.1, 7.2, and 7.3 moved by Hauser and approved.

** Unfinished Business

8.1, 8.2, and 8.3, all resolutions requiring roll call vote, moved by Young. Approved on a roll call of 8 Aye, and 0 Nay.

* Discussion Item — Transition Team on the Planning Process

Deb Pilger (staff) and Jeff Shoenbauer (consultant) give presentation, and introduce about half a dozen staff members who are on the transition team. The hiring of district managers and some scheduled interviews is mentioned.

Shoenbauer says the focus is on “updating the project planning process.”

Young has several comments and questions: (1) Getting public input requires a variety of cultural efforts, not just the Latino Workshop mentioned by Shoenbauer. (2) Is concerned about the money going into this process; it does not seem to have numbers attached to it. (3) How will they fit sustainability into this process?

Shoenbauer says this is just a prototype for new and more initiatives, and they will continue, become a process and part of the organization.

Hauser says “a lot of this was really good.” Question: How does a commissioner or public member bring an idea froward?

Shoenbauer: commissioner goes through superintendent, a district manager, etc. [fails to answer the public member portion of question].

Hauser: Are front line staff included? (using a nursing analogy)

Shoenbauer: As Go-Team was, so is Transition Team. Involvement will radiate out from there.

Hauser: So front line staff will be included?

Shoenbauer: Yes, absolutely.

Erwin compliments staff on great work done and that he appreciates their efforts. He asks if this will make it into the new budget to be discussed on November 3.

Siggelkow answers that yes, budget will reflect staff changes.

Young asks how will the structure affect the board? They need to know by January.

** New Business

** Petitions & Communications

Mason received a letter on the use of the Wirth House, and a lot of e-mail and phone calls regarding Crown Hydro. She asks about a letter to interim super. Jon Gurban from Change, Inc. on June 1 regarding an agreement and would like a copy of it.

Kummer attended the 35W meeting regarding the bridge of Minnehaha Parkway and Blue Water meeting. She received a letter regarding the Walker Library and says that adjacent park land might be affected by development at the library location.

* Regular Meeting Adjourns
** Admin & Fin reconvened by Hauser

* Report on Fuji Ya site by asst. supers. Don Siggelkow and Mike Schmidt. History of site goes back to West River Road Parkway development. Park Board used Eminent Domain to take 2 parcels of land, 1 north and 1 south of the Fuji Ya site in order to build the road. The south site essentially took the Fuji Ya parking lot. As a result, Fuji Ya took Park Board to court to claim severance, that their business was killed by this taking and thus the Park Board must by them completely out. Fuji Ya prevailed in court and the Park Board was required to come up with additional money to pay for the rest of the property.

The property has been mostly vacant, only used for a short while by the Park Board. It’s an eyesore, vacant and deteriorating. The building is in bad shape. Lack of parking makes a viable restaurant business there not possible. There are restrictions on the title to the property which seem to require sale of property for it to be used(?). Some small amount of state money was involved in paying for it and the state has the restrictions(?).

Park Board staff has reached agreement on a proposal from Columbia Development LLC (aka Lucky Club LLC or Lucky Club LP or wholly- or partially owned by one of these two entities) to sell Columbia the land for $2.5 million. Appraisal values on the land came in between $2.35 million and $2.75 million. Due to potential problems with the property as a result of mill ruins under it, historic issues, etc. there is a $400,000 figure knocked off the top of the sale price. [not clear how, or why sale price is not just stated at the lower figure] A repurchase opportunity is mentioned [but is not clear]. Development proposal is called “in range.”

Park Board will get a 99-year lease on the lower level for parking. There are lots of contingencies written into the proposed agreement which allow Columbia or the Park Board to back out if certain things happen or go wrong.

* Jeff [missed last name, but a musician?] from Columbia Development presents his 16-unit townhouse development that will “resonate” with the downtown community, and takes questions. He has preliminary site plan and view sketches from designers/architects to see.

Young has questions about loss of parking and handicap accessibility at Mill Ruins Park across the Parkway from this site.

Erwin asks about potential Park facilities, e.g. restrooms and concessions along this long stretch of park land.

Fine says Park Board has spent about $3 million on this property to buy the business and asks if Park Board will now sell it for less ($2.5 million minus various subtractions)? [guess Fine was not paying attention to staff presentation]

Siggelkow answer: No, $3 million was for entire property, north and south parcels Park Board wanted plus Fuji Ya site in the middle they were required to buy. Only selling the middle piece, which they never wanted.

Fine asks about the $750,000 reduction in the price ($2.5 million – $750,000).

Answer: That’s what it would cost to develop the parking (which Columbia will build and lease to Park Board).

Kummer asks if Columbia has had preliminary discussions with SHPO [State Historic Preservation Office]. She claims SHPO did not want “one brick to be touched” with the Crown Hydro proposal. Why is this piece of property suddenly expendable [after ~20 years]?

Columbia answer: We are confident and we will just have to to see what happens. They didn’t want to talk to seriously with SHPO until they got further.

Young asks about contamination and other contingencies.

Siggelkow says Park Board and Columbia are aware of the issues. The land has sat for 20 years.

Erwin says if Park Board *sells* this land acquired through eminent domain, are we shooting ourselves in the foot with respect to the arguments the Park Board has made against Crown Hydro and its use of eminent domain to take property for the hydro plant.

[Erwin’s question is particularly interesting given that people from Crown Hydro have been attending Park Board meetings when they have not been on the agenda, and in fact, Bill Hawks (Crown Hydro’s main investor) and Rob Brown (Crown Hydro’s PR guy) are in the audience tonight. Further, the Columbia Development project had an initial agreement with the Park Board more than a year ago. Has Hawks now invested in Columbia Development to move it along in an effort to gain leverage for Crown Hydro?]

[More information on this piece of land at this link. ]

Dziedzic asks if the state will get money from the sale.

Siggelkow says the state had very little money in the purchase deal, and would probably not get involved, but the Park Board has an out if they do.

Dziedzic asks if they had an earlier proposal for this site.

Siggelkow says yes, with Lucky Club.

Dziedzic asks about potential for a restaurant at this location.

Columbia says it won’t work financially.

Fine asks why the Park Board bought this piece of land.

[Member of public audience asks if Fine is at the same meeting as the rest of us?]

Staff answers that it was a result of the West River Road Parkway route.

Hauser asks how many parking spots in portion leased to Park Board.

Columbia says 55 to 70, depending on configuration.

Hauser asks if some of the parking space could be used for food and drink concessions or restrooms.

Columbia notes that the Mill City Museum Cafe is only 100 yards away.

Young reiterates that the standing policy of the Park Board is that they do not sell land. Where will the money from this sale go?

Siggelkow answers that most of it will go into the land acquisition fund.

Schmidt notes that the Park Board never meant to buy this land and that it is a burden.

Dziedzic reiterates some aspects of the deal and remarks that he thinks it was a “slick deal” to get $4 million from the state(?) via Brian Rice via Phyllis Kahn to get the desired parcels for the parkway.

Young says they should be cautious…

Hauser cuts Young off.

Kummer wants to know why this piece of land was not incorporated into the Mill Ruins Park.

* Admin & Finance committee adjourns.


Star Tribune: Berm removal at Minneapolis park divisive

Chao Xiong, Star Tribune, October 19, 2004

Some say they soften noise, while others say they conceal crime. But however north Minneapolis residents feel about the berms enclosing Jordan Park, they’re coming down.

At the behest of Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board staff members, crews this week began leveling a series of 4-foot hills or berms around Jordan Park, an area known for prostitution, drug dealing and gang activity.

The berms were installed in the mid-1980s as a sound barrier for the neighborhood. But some residents say they’re nothing but sight barriers to the sunken playground, creating a shield for criminal activities.

“Not too long ago we had an incident where we had this girl screaming and screaming about 11:30 at night, and I was scared to go down there,” said Kim Caroll, who lives across the street from the park. “I went out because she kept screaming and screaming, and I had the police on the phone. They said, ‘What’s going on?’ And I couldn’t see because of the berms.”

Caroll, who said she is one of the few residents with children who frequent the park, went out to the park that night and spooked a couple of boys who ran off. By the time police arrived, the girl had gone, too, Caroll said, adding that she never learned what happened.

Tom Specht also lives across from the park and is leading a fight to keep the berms.

“It’s going to be terribly noisy,” he said. “I cannot imagine what it’s going to be like with [the berms] gone.”

Judd Rietkerk, the Park Board’s assistant superintendent of planning, said the berms are being removed because they prevent park police from seeing into the park. …

“The berms have created an area where people can go where they’re kind of invisible,” said Minneapolis Park Police Sgt. Rick Doll. …

Earlier this year, a berm was removed at Currie Park for safety reasons, Rietkerk said, adding that park staff would consider doing the same for any park with similar concerns.

Seven residents who live across from Jordan Park, led by Specht, signed a petition against the removal. In addition to increased noise, Specht said, he is concerned that the Park Board did not hold public meetings about the berms.

“Everybody was deprived of the opportunity to add their input,” he said. …

The berm removal, which is costing a little over $40,000, does not meet the $100,000 threshold that requires a project be discussed in official public meetings, Rietkerk said.

Rietkerk and Jon Gurban, the interim parks superintendent, attended neighborhood meetings last spring and told residents that the berms would be removed.

For residents such as Caroll and Sue Wallin, who have lived across from the park for 26 years, safety overrides any auditory assaults that may come with berm removal.

“Daily there’s drug dealing going on in the park,” Wallin said. “Last week I had to call the police twice because of that. I would rather put up with a little noise than more drug dealing.”

Park Board Meeting

Agenda documents for this meeting are available in Microsoft Word format at this location.


4:30pm Standards & Conduct – complaint against Dziedzic
5:00pm Regular Meeting
5:15pm Other – review legal services, Brian Rice.
5:30pm Operations & Environment
6:15pm Administration & Finance

Star Tribune: Park Board headquarters is over budget

Park Board headquarters is over budget
The newly acquired building on the Minneapolis riverfront is costing $400,000 more than expected – so far.
Published on May 10, 2003
By Rochelle Olson

Staff Writer
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board will spend at least $400,000 more than expected on its new headquarters on the upper Mississippi riverfront at a time when the board is scraping to keep park toilets and wading pools open.

The board initially budgeted $5.4 million to buy and renovate the office building on N. West River Road between Broadway Pizza and the defunct Riverview Supper Club. But unexpected renovation expenses have pushed the cost to $5.8 million, primarily

Park Board Business

To all of you who are following Park Board meetings on Park Watch or cable TV:

As I continue to attend and observe Park Board meetings, what I’ve discovered to be significant is not only what Park Board business IS addressed at Park Board meetings, but what Park Board business is NOT addressed at meetings. I’ve observed that certain business items get postponed or just left off of the agenda and ignored. These items are not insignificant items.

So I’ve found it’s a good idea to keep tabs on what business SHOULD have been carried forward from the previous meeting.

Liz has reported about what business WAS conducted at the October 6 Park Board meeting. I will report about what business SHOULD have been addressed at the October 6 meeting but was not:

1. A DETAILED review and discussion of the Park Board’s reserve funds as requested by minority board members (Berry Graves, Erwin, Mason and Young) at the September 15 meeting. It’s kinda nice to know about these funds’ balances.

2. The declaration by the PB of its position on the City approved Bassett Creek Valley Master Plan as requested by the Bryn Mawr Neighborhood Association in August. This is the third post-ponement of this item. Stay tuned for this “hot” topic.

3. A DETAILED budget, as requested by minority board members at the September 15 meeting, for the Interim Superintendent’s plan to move the police to the PB headquarters building. When spending close to $400,000, it’s nice to know as much as possible about what the costs are going to be.

From What I Can See — the Future of the Wirth House

A speech by student Harry Huberty to the Minneapolis Park Board at the September 1, 2004 regular meeting

“Thank you, Commissioner Young, for that wonderful introduction. My name is Harry Huberty. I live in the Macalester Groveland neighborhood of St. Paul. I’d like to speak about the future of the Theodore Wirth Home and Administrative Building.

Given that I’m from St. Paul, it’s funny that I should have concerns at all. I was raised for my entire life across the river, and for the vast majority of that time, I hated Minneapolis. There was plenty to keep my happy in St. Paul, and besides, the city across the river was foreign and dangerous soil to me — I can distinctly recall, in seventh grade, when it was nicknamed ‘Murderapolis.’ Except for the occasional bike ride along Minnehaha Parkway, I never visited Minneapolis. I never wanted to.

Then, in the fall of 2001, I fell in with the Minneapolis Parks Legacy Society. Originally, I was working on a school project, but wound up getting much more out of the experience. From the Legacy Society, I learned the story of Theodore Wirth and his vision for the park system of Minneapolis. Suddenly, those parkways I used to ride down had history behind them — history, and subtlety, and significance, and meaning. I began to notice more of Minneapolis. I began to appreciate it.

In fact, my opinion of Minneapolis changed forever during that fall. The city across the river ceased to be ‘Murderapolis’ — now it was a garden city, planned with its citizens in mind and grown to exhibit all its beauty. I began to feel pride for that city, for its beauty, for its history. I began to tell my friends its story, and show them the places I had discovered. Minneapolis was no longer foreign soil — now, it was my own city.

As Commissioner Young explained, I’ve now grown up and gone off to Dartmouth College. I love it there, but I often find myself defending Minneapolis from my east coast friends. They simply can’t seem to grasp the concept of a city with so many sports of green, planned and set aside for the people’s use. A city where one can walk six blocks and be at Lake Calhoun or Lake Hiawatha. And I always love coming back home to Minneapolis, to my parks, lakes and boulevards. And, while I’m becoming more and more aware that I may not spend the rest of my life here in Minnesota, Minneapolis — not St. Paul — will always feel like home to me. Some day, I plan to bring my children to this city so they can learn and love its history.

Today, we have a valuable opportunity to preserve the history of the Minneapolis parks for years to come. This is history, real and vital, and we must preserve it for future generations. My story can and should be the story of countless more children in the Twin Cities. If a kid from St. Paul can have so much pride in Minneapolis, how much more will its own youth have?

Please don’t let this incredible opportunity pass by. Give the Minneapolis Parks Legacy Society a chance to open up the doors to Theodore Wirth’s House, and to the entire history of Minneapolis’ parks. Allow the Minneapolis Parks Legacy Society to teach your children the history, the subtlety, the significance, and the meaning of Minneapolis and its wonderful parks — and their love and their pride will grow up with them. Thank you for your time.”

October 6 Meeting Highlights

4:48pm Legal Review Committee called to order by Commissioner Fine

Commissioner Mason requested a breakdown on fees billed by Mr. Rice between lobbying costs and legal costs, she also stated she could not do an evaluation at this time without these figures.

Commissioner Fine suggested postponing the evaluation until the forms were completed.

Commissioner Erwin was concerned about conflict of interest and wondered if the Board could receive and end of year report on legal matters as they do for Legislative work.

Commissioner Young also wanted a legal presentation of sorts (and in her sunglasses using something as a shade asked staff to please do something about the lighting…maybe she could call one of the local Anchorpersons and ask for tips).

the jist of the rest was to postpone and do nothing….Adjourned

5:01 Planning Committee called to order by Commissioner Fine

Jennifer Ringold gave a presentation on her exchange year in Adelaide, Australia She gave an interesting presention and stresses that Adelaide was a planned city and that the policy of planning things in detail and covering many contingencies over the long term was a large part of the Business plan of the city. (Long term planning with contingencies considered and continual maintainence projections included..what a common sense approach). Another big difference was that the land was owned by the city and leased to private sports clubs, more of a landlord type of situation.

Jennifer also showed pictures of her travels and answered questions from the commissioners.


5:20 Administration and Finance called to order by Commissioner Hauser

Commissioner Kummer asked to add to the agenda under new business moving petitions and communications to the end of the regular meetings by New Business.

7.1 Approve the lease extension to Mintahoe for the Nicollet Pavillion

per Assistant Sup Siggelkow (or whatever the new titles will be) Mintahoe has invested $1,000,000 to install HVAC, windows, carpet etc.. to make the facility year round and able to cater large events (like the MPRB their original est. was $450,000 and it climbed) Under their present contract they market the site. The site is making good money and did a $150,000 day when the Event Planners Convention was in town . The new terms would include renovations of a boiler room to new restrooms and kitchens and an elevator and thus more floor space to accommodate larger groups. They would pay for renovations but would ask that the MPRB change the contract rates. There would be a trade off of utilities for event rental $$ ( I missed a bit, but I think it was for 5 years with the possibility of 2- 5 year extensions).

Commissioner Dziedzic wants them to throw in an extra free day for the MPRB (currently have 4 set days for annual events and 4 floating days)

Commissioner Erwin asked if they were increasing the building footprint with the expansion plans, per ASST SUP Siggelkow no.

Commissioner Erwin asked would there be a parking problem

ASST SUP Siggelkow..Is now but can work them out with De La Salle and conventions bus people in to the area.

Commissioner Young wants to know if the dollars earned at the site are kept available for big fixes like roofs, plumbing and maintainence.

ASST SUP Siggelkow ..the Enterprise side of the MPRB has such a contingency plan

The lease extension was Approved

7.2 Ammended Expeditures passes without discussion (expenditure now outpace revenues by $200,000)

7.3 Commissioner Kummer’s motion to move Petitions and Communications to the end of the full board meetings so more of the “business” gets broadcast on cable

not much discussion here but more after it is approved (3 to 2 in committee) and moved to the full board.

Study Report Items

ASST SUP Siggelkow and the proposed 2005 budget (which was suppose to have been discussed in detail at this meeting but low and behold we are behind)

Assuming a salary fringe allotment of 2%, insurance increases of 18% (yes 18), operating expense increase of 2% and a max operating levy of 4% they will be $1,000,000 short.

(YES ONE MILLION DOLLARS WILL NEED TO BE CUT ….WATCH OUT POOLS AND POTTIES) The interim superintendent says he wants no gimmick cuts but that operating expenses must go down and the Charter requires a balanced budget. They will rate service priorities and present the budget Oct 20th (I’m not holding my breath)

The interim superintendent has a new plan for Strategic and Forward looking budgets so we can be prepared to deal with shortfalls rather than reacting (DUH!!!)

They will now keep expenses to revenues, count inflation (good luck guessing health insurance increases) and use efficiencies before service reductions (oh my, common sense, what were they using before).

Priorities for one time dollars will be as follows 1.Reduce debt or operating expenses 2. One time investment to provide annual income (like Neiman Sports Complex, oops that costs money annually) 3.An expense that will improve efficiencies 4.Further goals but DO NOT increase operating expenses

The interim superintendent has been working on this since April/May (I think my bank sends out a set of suggestions just like this to help get rid of your credit card debt in my monthly statements)

Commissioner Erwin asks where safety priorities are on the list which add to costs

ASST SUP Siggelkow replies that they come out of the regular budget by shifting some operating expenses for no net increase, badly needed fixes can be brought to the attention of the interim superintendent.

Commissioner Hauser ask if there is a safety committee and the interim superintendent claims there is an ad hoc one.

Commissioner Young asks how the ratings on services are created and the system is explained

Commissioner Kummer asks why 18% increase in the insurance and was told that was the max and under the old systom it would have been closer to 60%

Commissioner Hauser asks how the budget sessions went at city hall

ASST SUP Siggelkow said ways and means thought there was a great “spirit of cooperation”

Commissioner Dziedzic asks how much unexpended MPRB money is sitting in funds earning the city but not the MPRB interest. He jokingly alludes to annoyance at self and Brian Rice for setting system that way while at city hall in past. (20/20 hindsight) Those dollars should be used to pay off the loan on the building so the MPRB pays less interest.

Then Commissioner Fine suggests using money in funds to pay off building, freeing up the $160,000 interest payments they are making, with the caveat that they can mortgage the building if they need extra funds (Great Idea, maybe when the rates are higher and then you can pay even more interest and extra closing costs).

The committee was recessed for the Full Board Meeting and open time.

Regular Meeting is called to order by President Olson.

Open Time

First up is Tim Baylor who is the MPRB’s neighbor upstream. Riverview homes Phase 1 is almost complete. 22 of 29 units are sold and by the end of the month 20 units will be occupied. He has done some temporary landscaping and has plans to start phases 2-5 after trying to become part of a TIF district. His 3 minutes were up and there were no questions for his companions.

Next was a Mr. Schmekt (sorry about the guess on the spelling) from the Jordan neighborhood. He spoke about moving a berm between Jordan Park and his neighborhood. He and the neighbors had a petition asking the MPRB to consider leaving their berm intact for a sound barrier and removing the berm on the east side of the park as they are already lower and could provide easier access for Park Police if needed. The east side also has a larger sidewalk that would even accommodate police vehicles. They were not impressed with the neighborhood receiving NO NOTICE.

Back to the Admin and Finance Committee….

A power point table listing balances of different funds during the past few years was displayed ( sorry, I missed getting notes on it) Commissioner Hauser suggested the funds should be used to pay off debt and be invested in projects that would decrease operating expenses ASST SUP Siggelkow tried to simplify the system as the operating budget being the checking account and the Fund balances being the savings account with some complications such as self-insurance (apparently the fund balance total is at about 2.5 million expected for this year)

Commissioner Mason supports having an operating balance of 10% (of total MPRB budget of around $50 million) and a fund balance of $1,000,000, where the other 1.5 million should go to board priorities, paying off the debt would be nice but the rents from the lower level were suppose to do that. She also suggested that there be a balance level on accounts where the board receives a notice.

Commissioner Erwin believes there should be a tree reserve and thought the report idea was good. He also recommended keeping some dollars available for matching grants.

Commissioner Young advocates using the $$ to get the diseased trees down,the stumps out and new trees planted, otherwise we should leave the fund balances for unforseen emergencies.

Commissioner Hauser suggests that stump removal be moved up on the priority survey the commissioners filled out

Commisioners Dziedzic thinks maybe we need to spend more on safety, lighting

Commissioner Berry-Graves suggests keeping the health care costs down and then mentions the ELEPHANT in the room…moving the Park Police and is against it.

Stump removal is moved to 3A on the commissioner survey via motion and the committee is adjourned (and the whole issue of the fund balances is dead and buried without anything happening…sooooo smooooth).

Back to the regular meeting…

Additions to the agenda..the commissioner search, and plans for the Wirth House

Petitions and Communications: most were mundane but there was some hand slapping of 2 commissioners (Kummer and Erwin) for meeting with the folks from People for Parks, which is again disbanding, when there had been a directive that ASST SUP Siggelkow should be included in any meetings. (People for Parks just wants to distribute funds and get outta Dodge)

The windsurfers are unhappy with the plans to move their jump off spot on Calhoun (the new one is wind defficient)………

Commissioner Kummer is hoping to convene the Standards and Conduct committee by the end of the month (Dziedzic comments from an earlier meeting)

2nd Annual Peace games 10/21 1-4pm Nicollett Island Pavillion


The Goodwill team reports..a team of 3 visited the rec centers and took care of some long delayed wish list items of the local building staff members..made lots of friends throughout the system and made clear that communication within the organization needed some streamlining

A list of 400 items was pared down by 300 and 50 in the works ..some after slides were shown. (no cost for this was given in the report) Interim Superintendent Gurban talks about getting more staff training in gang recognition, latino culture..and that the bandshell is done (thanks Mr. McGowan and volunteers)

ASST SUP Siggelkow mentions that the U of M wants to move the homecoming bonfire from the ST Paul campus ot the East River Flats to promote bringing football back to campus and that the budget presentation should be Nov 3rd

ASST SUP Schmidt mentions volunteer appreciation banquet, Peace Games (in his dual capacity as ASST SUP for Recreation) and brings up Solomon Park the “new park” ( they better not be jumping that park ahead in the park improvement line or some people are going to get unhappy) (CONSIDERING THE LENGHT OF TIME SPENT ON THIS LITTLE WAS REPORTED)

Consent Business is passed with little discussion

Reports of Committees..

Commissioner Dziedzic votes against the new parking machines (which are part of the 21st century and accept credit cards)

Petitions and Communications is moved to the end of the meetings (so if you want your complaints or concerns to be made public you will need to voice them at open time to be “on air” unless the meetings are short…)

Unfinished business….

8.1…Changing the titles, job descriptions, and maybe salaries….. Commissioner Young had some questions about salaries, job descriptions, and who is appointed and who reports to whom…A vote is called and it passes (Big 5 to Small 4).


8.2 Moving the Park Police to the new building to the tune of $350,000 and a $50,000 contingency fund thus $400,000 (as we know project overruns are the norm, consider the $6 million for the Neiman Sports Complex that is now at least $12 million)

Commissioner Erwin thinks he can live with the numbers and hopes that they can stay in the estimate

Commissioner Mason questions the “work out room” when Park Police already receive health club memberships and questions the cost of revamping the old police building for the Environmental Operations Department (well there goes more money….$400,000 my Aunt Fanny) she motions postponing discussion until January, it fails.

Commissioner Hauser thinks it is a great idea as the old building had mice and was in bad condition (who is responsible for the upkeep…oh yeah…the parkboard)

Commissioner Berry-Graves suggests again using the money to reduce insurance rates for staff and sees the costs with renovation of the old building totaling closer to $600,000 and will vote no.

Commissioner Dziedzic will vote for the cops out on the front lines and thinks having the gym and showers will be great and the officers can bring in the kids and show them around etc….(I think there might be a liability issue with that and I’m not going into the showers seen in the wrong light aspect)

Commissioner Young…costs too much

Commissioner Erwin…gym available to all staff not just police

Vote 6 for, 2 against (Mason and Berry-Graves), 1 (Young) abstains

(There goes the budget rules out the window..or is that next year when those apply???) 8.3 and 8.4 pass

Counsel Brian Rice gives a report on the Charter Commission and is dutifully making sure the MPRB loses none of it’s power to the Mayor or City Council The Charter Commission is on Draft 5B and the MPRB has been the most active participant (billable hours I am guessing)


Commissioner Kummer introduces a long resolution to oppose a development next to Lake Calhoun (the owner had a 4 story building that was grandfathered in under the Shoreline Overlay District (?) and now that the building is being redone they want a variance to go 6 stories)

Commissioner Young suggests using the standard process and sending a letter from the MPRB stating their position on this which though agreeing with the neighborhood would be independent

Commissioner Erwin offers a substitute motion to hear from the developer first and it fails (even with Jackie Cherryholmes the developer’s rep in the room)

Resolution Passes

Discussion of the blue background wall for the TV cameras

Superintendent Search

Commissioner Mason…only 8 applicants as of 9/30 should deadline be extended

Commissioner Dziedzic… Interim title known since last January plenty of time for folks

No Extension

Wirth House

Commissioner Erwin..tenant is out, environmental operations is in until police move and redo of old police building…then what and let’s not wait until the last minute

ASST SUP Schmidt…Environmental Operations went out of trailers to save the rental expense and no work other than the move from the trailers to the building was done and the house was not altered


(so with a proposed $1 million shortfall for next year they voted to spend $600,000 to move staff around…is it your park that takes the hit next year??????)

Liz Wielinski
Columbia Park