Highlights of the Feb. 16 Park Board Meeting


Mayor Rybak and Peggy Booth are not present and are supposed to speak to the Operations and Environment Committee, so commissioner John Erwin calls the Recreation Committee meeting to order instead.


Mayor Rybak and Peggy Booth arrive. Recreation Committee meeting continues.

* Study / Report Items

General manager Mike Schmidt gives a brief report on parkway closings to vehicular traffic, their problems and finishes by saying that staff recommends against any parkways closings in 2005.

Commissioner Annie Young says she is disappointed, and would actually like to close them more often. She’s mentions that today is the first day of the Kyoto Agreement (to which, the USA is the only major country that did not sign), and says that although the USA is not participating, we can still take action right here in Minneapolis to reduce air pollution [via such closings].

Commissioner Vivian Mason states that although she is not a member of this committee, she echoes Young’s sentiments and reports that her constituents thought that past closings were successful.

Commissioner Rochelle Berry Graves says that not closing the parkways is troublesome to her also. She believes that such closings are a way for families to get together and meet one another in a beneficial way.

Commissioner Marie Hauser asks about the history, wrongly guessing that they were closed the last 2 summers.

Schmidt clarifies, there were no closings in 2004.

Hauser asks about staff time.

Schmidt answers they do take some commitment from park keepers and park police, as citizens seem to ignore the barricades unless a person in a blue uniform is standing there. They tried volunteers in 2003 with mixed success.
Closings need to be prioritized versus other needs.

Commissioner Bob Fine eventually gets around to saying he thinks that parkways closings are a great idea but that there is no money in the budget to do it. The idea did not get off the ground; it needs more publicity. [And whose fault is it that there is no money and inadequate publicity? Where does the buck stop?] Fine says the bike paths are very good and that the board should revisit the idea another time.

Commissioner Walt Dziedzic says they talked about consolidating what the board does at the retreat. He says “kill it.” He says there is no need for parkway closings in Northeast and Southeast because of bike paths, and that the River Roads are needed for transportation. He says he will vote for the staff recommendation.

Young reminds the board that this is a study/report item, not a vote. She reminds the board that there is a Green Team about to come forward with a bunch of “green” initiatives, of which parkway closings might be a part.

Erwin says he pushed to restart the closings in 2003, and is in favor of continuing them. He doesn’t believe the cost is high although police will always be needed to complement the volunteers. He says he spoke with some businesses near Lake Calhoun which expressed interest in the idea and who might be willing to help pay for it. He says it takes a while to get events like this started, before people get used to and expect them and make them succeed.

Recreation Committee is adjourned.


Young calls the Operations and Environment Committee to order.

Young invites Mayor Rybak and Peggy Booth, Chairperson of the Minneapolis Tree Advisory Committee (MTAC), to speak regarding Dutch Elm Disease. Rybak defers to Booth who gives her latest report.

Booth says that since her last report to the Park Board in January, she has met with the City Council and the Mayor, and begun some process for cooperative efforts. She would like to have 3 more members appointed to MTAC, one from the business sector, one from the utilities sector and one from the CUE shade tree committee[?].

Booth mentions the excellent press coverage their report got in January, with coverage by most or all TV stations and newspapers. She says they are working with Lee Lynch of Carmichael Lynch to develop an integrated awareness campaign. City Public Works are now helping with the removal of trees and they anticipate that all trees on public property that were marked in 2004 will be down by the end of this month, instead of the end of March.

Booth says they are looking for a site in North or Northeast to handle wood and bark processing, in addition to the site at Ft. Snelling. She says they need more funds committed to this crisis in 2005, or the costs will be higher in 2006 and 2007.

Booth notes that trees on private property are a problem, in that 35% of those trees marked last summer are still standing. They need more contractors, and they need to find a way to help residents pay for the sometimes high cost of removal. Currently there is no incentive for contractors or private tree owners to expedite the removal of diseased trees — quick removal being the key to preserving existing trees.

Rybak thanks the Park Board for their cooperation and talks about how we (Park Board and City) can work together better. He was recently in Washington D.C. at the national conference for mayors, and as a result he may have found a source for some money, maybe $50,000. He says Mayor Daly of Chicago was able to get some money, and Minnesota U.S. Rep. Martin Sabo is working on same for Minneapolis. Rybak mentions the possibility of using property tax statements as a way to help residents pay for private tree removal over a 10-year or so period. This is just starting to be investigated. He mentions the city and park partnership on both trees and parkway lighting. The Park Board took over responsibility for trees and the city for lighting a while back. Lighting has turned out to be more expensive than estimated, though the city will spend $1.8 million on it over the next 5 years. Likewise, the Dutch Elm problem has made the tree maintenance more expensive.

Erwin thanks the Tree Committee, Mayor and City Council President Paul Ostrow for their efforts in addressing the Dutch Elm problem. Erwin has a question regarding cutting diseased trees versus planting new ones.

Schmidt answers that they plan to plant about 2500 trees this year using $100,000 from the Mayor and some money from NRP. [I believe there is no money from the Park Board budget being spent on planting.] After planting, they will get back to more cutting. They are anticipating cutting another 5300 trees this year (as many as last year). They had an aggressive diseased tree identification program last fall. [Note that there are an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 elm trees left in Minneapolis.] Schmidt says they will take different approach this year, and that they have $500,000 for stump grinding.

Erwin moves that the 3 requested appointments to the MTAC be made.

Young reminds Erwin it’s a study/report item, and that others must speak before they can have a motion.

Berry Graves talks about the problem with diseased trees on private property and the financial hardship it poses for many families. She asks about spreading the cost out over 10 to 15 years on property taxes.

Rybak answers that they are exploring that, but are early in the process.

Berry Graves asks about the impact of a mild winter.

Schmidt says there is no empirical data but everyone believes that mild winters are good for elm bark beetles and thus bad for elms. He says they won’t really know for 5 or more years due to the time it takes for the disease to occur and be recognized. On the other hand, mild winters are good for cutting trees.

Hauser (not on this committee) thanks the mayor and agrees that trees and lighting are priorities, and has little substantive to say other than the case for addressing the problem needs to be made in every venue. [It appears to me that Hauser is simply trying to get greater visibility for her campaign for City Council.]

Dziedzic (not on this committee) says he talked to “freshman representative Diane Loeffler” and asked is there any money for trees? [at the state] He mentions some antiquated funds at the legislature for electric[?]. [I’m told that Diane Loeffler says they are in the DNR area.] He says they need to think out of the box for a solution to get rid of the bugs. He says its a question of priorities and to remember the homeowner who “has had it up to here” with higher taxes.

Fine makes a bunch of sentence fragment statements expressing incomplete thoughts before finally saying that the urban forest is such an important part….didn’t we spend $11 million?

Schmidt answers that the entire Forestry budget in 2004 was $9 million.

Fine continues that money is the big issue and thanks the Tree Commission [MTAC] and the Mayor. Then he asks how the levy fits with city policy?

Rybak responds that yes, they must hold the line on property taxes to the home owner (whom the state has seen fit to stick it to), and that they are /not/ looking at additional tax levy for trees.

Young wraps up the study item, comments on the need for publicity, thanks the mayor and MTAC chairperson. She remarks that with about 60,000 elms left and losing 5,000 a year, we have 10 years or so to deal with the problem before it solves itself. She suggests a citizen alert. It needs to get down to the table, perhaps via school kids who bring it home and push their parents, like with recycling.

Berry Graves asks if it can put in the utility bills?

Booth says that is already slated for the July bills.

Jeanette Monear[spelling?] from the Minnesota Shade Tree Committee[?] says that Kurt Peterson [?] is writing legislation at the state to help.

Rybak says that Carmichael Lynch has developed a campaign, there will be a utility mailer, but that it is important there be one big coordinated campaign between all involved and interested entities.

Erwin moves adding 3 positions to MTAC, and that the action item be moved to the full board. Motion ADOPTED.

Operations and Environment Committee Adjourns


President commissioner Jon Olson calls Regular meeting to order.

Fine wants to add 2 items to the agenda: (1) 4.1 approve the design of the University of Minnesota rowing facility on the Park Board’s east river flats property, and (2) 4.2 approve preservation of the city tunnel at Mill Ruins Park. He claims these items were not on the agenda as an oversight, and were approved in committee. [Or was the plan just to keep the public ignorant of the agenda? With most public boards this wouldn’t even be a question, but with the See no Public, Hear no Public, Don’t Let the Public Speak attitude among some commissioners, one has to wonder.]


Public Open Time: Steve Nelson talks about privatization of the parks, and why it’s the wrong direction to go. Steve’s complete statement can be viewed here.

Olson cuts him off before he finishes after 3 minutes, though he needs but 30 seconds more to finish his last 2 paragraphs.

However, there is plenty of time to watch a 20-minute South High School produced video about the Rebirth of the Riverfront, which looked like it might be interesting but due to technical difficulties was impossible to hear. Kudos to student Will Muessig from South [among other, I gather].


Erwin recessed the Regular meeting.

Hauser calls the Administration and Finance Committee to order.

The only agenda item is to approve the draft 2005 capital improvement program (CIP), which is presented by Director Judd Rietkerk.

[While the numbers are interesting to finance numbers geeks like the writer, the most controversial issues are the split money between Jordan Park and Shingle Creek, the $564,000 to be spent putting in an artificial turf field at Parade Field, and that the East Phillips Community Center got completely axed.]

Young says that water quality programs need to be added and asks why the East Phillips center was dropped completely from the 5 year plan. She is adamantly “not happy.”

Mason is also perturbed and had desired the East Phillips Community Center to be funded. She has a clarification question regarding the classification of the $500,000 to be spent at Lake Hiawatha Park — none is for water quality, correct?

Rietkerk answers “correct.” [Lake Hiawatha has the worst water quality problem in the park system, I believe.]

Dziedzic asks where the artificial turf is going at Parade Stadium.

Rietkerk answers that a football field was the primary grant application, but they also wanted a soccer field. The turf is not going on the existing baseball field there.

Dziedzic is confused.

Berry Graves asks about why the money for Jordan is split over the 5 year plan.

Olson clarifies that there wasn’t enough money for both Jordan and Shingle Creek, and that with the way things are going, they probably won’t get the money they have planned for in the future years of the 5 year plan at all, so they split the money they did have between the two parks and planned to get the rest in the future.

Erwin says he supports getting Jordan done now.

Berry Graves asks how we provide some consideration for East Phillips? It has been 12 years that she knows about that they have been putting East Phillips off.

Hauser answers that East Phillips was in the budget, but was not approved by CLIC (Citizen’s Long Range Improvement Committee). [This is misleading and disingenuous since the Park Board has the authority to spend their money however they see fit and the CLIC is advisory only.]

Young wants East Phillips in the 5 year CIP. Asks how do we get it and water quality included?

Rietkerk attempts to mollify by saying he is there just for approval on 2005 net debt bonds and will come back to the board with a 5-year 2006 to 2011 budget.

Young says East Phillips is lost again. She MOVES to combine and split the Jordan and Shingle Creek money as proposed. Motion ADOPTED.


Hauser grandstands for a bit.

Dziedzic says that there are more kids in Phillips than any place west of Chicago, but then says they are getting the Colin Powell center, so do we really need 2 centers in that neighborhood?

Someone points out that the Colin Powell center is miles from the East Phillips center location, so no, there will not be 2 centers in that neighborhood.

Admin & Fin Adjourned.


Regular meeting reconvened by Olson.

Mason wants a correction made to previous meeting minutes which are about to be approved which incorrectly state that she voted for the adopted budget. She did not. Amended minutes are APPROVED.

** Report of Officers

* Superintendent Jon Gurban jokes with the University of Minnesota students who are present studying how government works.

Mason says she appreciated getting the superintendent’s report in her packet.
She has some questions:
– There was nothing in the report about meeting with the city council legislative committee, which she first learned about by reading the Star Tribune. – Similarly, there was nothing about the $15,000 contract with Idein LLC (http://www.ideinllc.com/), which she first learned about by reading the Southwest Journal. – Wanted to know more about his meeting with Joe ? regarding on-going program for Lake Harriet Bandshell maintenance. – Wondered about the research and react to the DeLaSalle proposal item.

Gurban answers with dissembling about how the city council meeting was not on his calendar, was a last minute thing, and since his report is taken from his calendar, it didn’t include it. He explains the Bandshell meeting as about an endowment for the park Foundation. He says he spent time responding to requests for information from DeLaSalle personnel and island residents, and mostly about the 1983 agreement.

Young says there are some flags here. Says the board wants to know about things. Asks about the bandshell.

Gurban is visibly agitated and his face is reddening.

Olson jumps in to defend Gurban, talking about the Foundation.

Hauser circumlocutes a while and finally asks about the plans at the Tinfish.
Staff answers that the operator will expand into the breezeway, phase 1 this
year, and improve fish and cooking in phase 2, 2007. They need to install a gas line for better cooking, and are negotiating that. Hauser comments on an item in Gurban’s report regarding wind generation — great, she says.

Berry Graves asks who is this mysterious Foundation? She wants to be introduced to them and learn their priorities, because the public always comes to the board, as the public knows nothing about this Foundation.

Gurban starts to talk about how in his last report he said who they were.

Berry Graves says she wants to meet them.

Gurban says we will arrange it.

Erwin says Berry Graves concern is valid.

Assistant superintendent (general manager?) Don Siggelkow says the Foundation does not have priorities yet, they are still organizing, and are wary of their independence. [I don’t think there is any risk in meeting the Park Board commissioners, and having them know as much about what is going as the staff apparently does, sure wouldn’t hurt either, would it?]

Young says she has been pushing for wind energy for 16 years, so she would like to be included in on talk regarding wind energy, especially as chair of the Operations and Environment Committee.

* General manager Schmidt reports on outdoor winter sports, primarily the state of the skating rinks, most of which are now closed due to the recent mild weather.

Mason asks about why Lake of the Isles warming house was closed [Lake of the Isles being one of the ice rinks that is still open].

Schmidt explains they wanted to reduce usage in an effort to preserve the rink until the cold weather returned to refreeze it, but the lack of communication and notice was a problem. They will have a plan in place next year to better communicate.


Director of planning Rietkerk (who has been “demoted” to the floor from the podium with the addition of the 3 new district park managers) reported on an Arts Grant application for funding art as part of park renovation.

General manager Siggelkow reports on the Fuji Ya property sale to Columbia Development. Small problem: selling property for $2.5 million minus $750,000 credit for lower level parking lease, but the title to the property requires Park Board to repay the state $3 million. Park Board lobbyist Brian Rice and Columbia Development lobbyist are working it at the state to get special legislation passed to exempt the Park Board from paying back the $3 million, and/or at least have the money from sale go into purchasing additional riverfront property.

Mason says thanks, that’s why she wanted the proceeds of the sale dedicated to buying more land.

Berry Graves asks to clarify.

Young asks when the next budget document is coming out. Answer from staff: March.

** Consent Business

Bids in items 2.1 through 2.4 are moved.

Erwin asks about item 2.2.

All items PASS although Mason was opposed to one item [2.1?].

Items 2.5 and 2.6 are moved and PASSED with no discussion.

** Reports of Standing Committees

* Standards and Conduct, chaired by commissioner Carol Kummer.

Kummer moves 3.1 through 3.3.

Erwin asks that they be voted individually.

3.1, changing which months the secretary reports on unfinished business and the wording to clarify that unfinished business was what was meant, passes unanimously.

3.2 to change rules to require “All matters directed to the Park and Recreation Board will be filed in the office of the board’s secretary no later than 12:00 noon on the Monday a week prior to the board meeting. A commissioner that would like to add an item to a committee or full board agenda must contact the president or committee chair by 9:00 am on the Monday a week prior to the board meeting and shall be immediately classified as either: 1. a routine matter, or 2. a referral matter.”

Young has a problem with it. There will be times when things come up after the deadline. Feels this rule is cutting of one’s nose to spite one’s face. It’s a lofty goal, but won’t work.

Mason has a question about which Monday.

Kummer says rule does not include old business or emergency items. [Do you see those exceptions mentioned in the rule?]

Young says the rule needs to be amended. It’s not clear.

Mason asks if this means the agenda on the website will match the agenda given to commissioners on the night of the meeting.

3.2 is ADOPTED with Young opposed.

3.3 says “That the board modify the board rules moving the deadline for signing up to speak during ‘Open Time’ to Monday prior to the meeting.” [See no Public…]

Kummer confuses which Monday that means.

Erwin is opposed to this rule because the lack of flexibility it allows for citizens who have jobs and busy lives in committing to being at a meeting. Erwin also says he sees no reason for the rule that says speakers at Open Time cannot talk about any topic that is on the agenda. Why not let them?

Dziedic complains that if 40 people showed up, they would keep you there at the meeting “forever.” [40 people times 2 minutes each is only 80 minutes.] He says he is going to vote for this rule, because you can always suspend the rules. [Hear no Public…]

Kummer says she will vote for the rule, though she has the same question as Erwin regarding allowing comments on agenda items.

Mason says she will vote against, because there is no problem with Open Time now that needs to be solved.

Young is also against this rule, says Open Time works ok now. She would welcome 40 people showing up to tell her what they thought. She says it is their park system, after all. The commissioners are just there to run it on their behalf.

Hauser asks confused questions about the public getting to have input during agenda items. She is told that no, they do not get such an opportunity.

3.3 FAILS.

3.4 says “That the board modify the board rules moving Open Time to 4:45pm.”

Because Kummer opposes this rule, she will not move it, and Fine, who proposed it, or Dziedzic who supported it, can do so.

Fine begins to quickly cover his ass and back-pedal. First he complains that people were using Open Time to attack commissioners. Then he Moves to TABLE 3.4 and Dziedzic quickly seconds his motion. […Speak no Public.]

3.4 is TABLED unanimously.

3.5 to change wording of rules about superintendent’s report, when due.

This rule discussion turns into a huge circus, with substitute motions, confusion and amendments which result in the rule being re-stated as it already stands, etc. Lots of splitting hairs. Basically it boils down to some commissioners [guess which 4] wanting to get reasonably informative reports in reasonably timely fashion from the superintendent and other commissioners [guess which 5] willing to let the superintendent’s report be missing items and late enough so as to be not so useful and easier to accomplish faits accomplis.

A voice vote is finally taken on Kummer’s original motion and TO MY EARS it sounds like it PASSES, but Olson is quick to call out it FAILS.

Fine moves added item 4.1 approving the University’s boathouse, and is “PASSED” immediately with no chance for discussion.

[Robert’s Rules of Order always calls for debate after such a motion before the call for votes.]

Fine moves 4.2 to preserve the city tunnel in Mill Ruins Park and it is ADOPTED unopposed.

Young comments that she is in shock! How did 4.1 pass with no discussion?

Olson ignores her.

5.1 to add 3 appointments to tree commission (MTAC) is moved and ADOPTED.

* Administration and Finance


Gurban leaves his seat on the podium to go chat with a couple of young women who are students at the University in the audience.

Hauser moves 7.1 and 7.2, change order increases to projects.

After some clarification from staff, they are ADOPTED.

Hauser moves 7.3, a bid, and 7.4 the 2005 CIP. Both are ADOPTED with Young opposed to 7.4.

** Petitions and Communications

Kummer petitions the staff to in the future track original / added / changed / deleted text in rule changes [after amending a rule back to its original form earlier and not realizing it]. She also received a letter opposing lease of land to DeLaSalle.

Young received a bunch of letters opposing lease of land to DeLaSalle.

Fine passes. [he never seems to get mail; why is that?]

Mason received letters which she already submitted to secretary.


Dziedzic talks about the veterans memorial and how it will find a place along the river yet. He feigns ignorance of the DeLaSalle issue, essentially saying how could he know anything when it hasn’t come to the board [for discussion or vote] yet. He mentions talking to CM Don Samuels regarding PEACE games.

Young and Berry Graves talked to Samuels also about PEACE games and pointed out the Park Board already is involved and maybe they ought collaborate instead of separately.

***** 7:53pm Adjourn *****