March 16 Meeting Report

Eight commissioners of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board met at their regular meeting on March 16. Commissioner Walt Dziedzic was absent.

5:00pm — Recreation Committee chaired by comr. John Erwin, and comrs. Rochelle Berry Graves, Bob Fine, Walt Dziedzic and Marie Hauser

Roll called, Agenda approved, no Action Items.

* Study / Report Items

#1. Ballet Arts update presented primarily by Marcia Chapman, with additional information from Robert Gooddale. They talked about the history of the organization, the many year relationship they have had with the Park Board, the programs they have run, some as a result of Park Board ideas. Primarily they appear to serve inner-city park youth through dance programs, including a Nutcracker performance. They are here to fix the relationship with the Park Board which has suffered from the departure of several Park Board staff who were involved in the initial partnership, and from lack of knowledge and visibility. It seems many people, including some commissioners, had no idea the partnership even existed, although commissioners Berry Graves, Vivian Mason and Annie Young were very aware of it and the history. All three had high praise for the program. Chapman is aware of the budget constraints and was mostly interested in raising the visibility of the partnership between the Park Board and Ballet Arts with the staff and commissioners. There was a dance video of a performance show and some parents and children in the program testified. All in all, it looks like a great program, and as Berry Graves pointed out, it helps keep children physically fit and serves as a crime reduction program by keeping children busy and out of trouble, teaching them life skills and self-esteem.

#2. Recreation Program Initiatives presented by Park Board General Manager Michael Schmidt. He says there will be more focus on cultural arts in the parks. Says that cultural arts and performing arts is an area needing more focus. Senior programming is another area needing focus. Says the area is “moving forward” and that “staff is aware” but no “answer in 3 week or 3 months” and that they need to get the reorganization behind them. Mentions also Teen Rec programs.

Hauser wants more details about rec. programs in district 4.

Mason asks if the new Loring Parks rec. leader is going to be more cultural arts oriented. [a perfect segue to Schmidt’s response]

Schmidt says a new person will finally be in that position [at Loring] in about 4 to 6 weeks.

New Park Board District Manager Paul Hokeness says a cultural arts person will report to him. He also says some words about the Skyway Senior Center, and that he talked with its director regarding collaboration. City pays for this center now.

Erwin says they need a repository for information; could it be put on the Park Board web site?

Hokeness says it is outside of policy to link from Park Board web site, but they will do something for the Senior Center.

~5:30pm — Committee adjourned.

Operations and Environment Committee, chaired by Annie Young, members Berry Graves, Fine, Erwin and Vivian Mason.

Roll called, Agenda approved, no Action Items.

* Study or Report Items.

#1. Lyndale Park Peace Garden Project Update, primarily presented by Mary Lerman.

Lyndale Park is a 63 acre park adjacent to Lake Harriet, donated to the Park Board in 1885 by William King (hence King’s Highway on the east side of the park). Since October 2003, the project has been raising funds to construct a Spirit of Peace sculpture and replace the peace bridge in the Garden. Through various efforts and events, they are one-third of their way to their goal. The Park Board Foundation agreed to act ask Fiscal Agent for money raising in January. Budget for project is $65,000[?]. Have raised $36,000. Best news yet: a special gift arrived in the last two weeks from Hiroshima, Japan of $14,000. This was a result of the Kawasi family, who with family and friends have raised over $17,000 for the project in Hiroshima. Daughter Maki is here (a grad student at U of M), speaks briefly and is presented with a certificate and token of appreciation, and is photographed with the board and project members. More information here.
[my apologies for no doubt misspelling Maki and her family’s name — I could find no references in print that mentioned them by name]

Erwin reads the certificate into the record. August 5 & 6 is planned new bridge dedication, and October 5 is planned sculpture dedication.

Committee Adjourned.


Administration and Finance Committee — chaired by Hauser, members Dziedzic, Mason, Young and Berry Graves.

* Roll called.

Mason, who was absent last meeting and had an item on the agenda under New Business, which was pushed to committee, wants to add that item to the agenda of this committee.

Commissioner Jon Olson, president of the board and not on this committee and who was ultimately responsible for having sent the item to committee, instead somehow prevents it from getting on the agenda of this committee, and instead moves it into “unfinished business.”

* Original agenda with Mason’s item is approved.

* Change Orders

7.1 and 7.2 approved without fanfare.

* Resolution

The official agenda that the public gets to see simply says:


ORDINANCE 2005-101


This is how they vote on things like allowing liquor licenses in the parks, because that is precisely what this ordinance is about. If you were perhaps a member of the public who had a concern about liquor being sold in a park near you, how would you know that you should be at this meeting? How would you know you should contact your commissioner and make your feelings known?

Despite some technical problems with the number of the existing ordinance being 102 and the new one being 101, 7.3 passes. Liquor coming soon to a park near you.

* Policy

7.4 approve purpose, scope, review and policies for the $500,000 Innovation “superintendent’s slush” Fund. This issue gets a bit of heated debate.

Young had written up a policy after last meeting at request of Hauser. It differs from the staff recommended policy by a very small amount to provide more accountability.

Hauser is incapable of finding the differences between Young’s written policy and the staff’s written policy.

Young has a substitute motion but Assistant Superintendent and board Secretary Don Siggelkow says you cannot have a substitute motion without a motion [there is none pending].

Berry Graves moves to TABLE 7.4.

Hauser tries to not allow any motion except a real motion to approve 7.4, but Siggelkow points out that a motion to Table is always allowed.

7.4 is TABLED.

* Agreement

7.5 authorizing staff to execute a lease with Wheel Fun Rentals at Minnehaha Park for 15% of sales generated by rentals to use space in Pavilion. APPROVED.

Committee Adjourned.


Regular meeting called.

Olson is present but sick, so turns over the chairing of the meeting to vice president Erwin.

Agenda moved by Fine and approved.

Erwin apologizes for late start of public Open Time, says there are 2 DeLaSalle speakers and 1 other speaker.

Actually, it turns out the first 3 speakers are Minneapolis-resident students at DeLaSalle, who all try to persuade the Park Board to give park land to DeLaSalle for the construction of a football field. This whole presentation is obviously scripted, and big time power broker John Derus is present (as usual) along with the WCCO TV news camera team. The complaint about “no home field” is repeated. The claim that the students contribute many hours to the community is floated. It was fairly polished propaganda.

The other speaker was Mary Lou Hill, who spoke about observing open government week by newspaper and library associations and the Freedom of Information Act.

* Minutes from past meetings were approved.

* Reports from Officers
– Superintendent Jon Gurban starts his report, as usual, by telling a joke about working less in February than in January, because the month is shorter. He says little of import but is available for questions on the written report.
– General Manager Schmidt says Arbor Day is May 7, put it on your calendars.
– Director of Planning Judd Rietkerk says security lighting was installed in Wirth Park to light new statues.
– General Manager Siggelkow gives his first-ever report on unfinished business, says there are 50 items from 2004, and his next report is June 15.

Commissioner Mason points out that the citizen request that Siggelkow received was the he report, as per long-standing Park Board policy, on the outstanding committee items [not what he reported on], and Mason suggests that perhaps committee chairs could track their open items to make this easier.

Siggelkow agrees on the chair idea.

Erwin also supports the idea and says it would be particularly helpful for new committee chairs to know what was outstanding.

* Consent Business

Items 2.1 through 2.5 PASS, with a brief Q&A about 2.4 regarding cost of parking lot, etc.

* Standing Committee

Items 4.1, 7.1, 7.2 all PASS with no discussion.

* Unfinished Business

– Discussion items: the Historic Theodore Wirth House.
Part 2 of 2.

Discussion of the Historic Theodore Wirth House.

Mason says that the Minnesota Recreation and Parks Association (MRPA) moved out of the Wirth House in July of 2004. She says there are 4 things the board needs to address. (1) Future usage of the house. Says that 2 groups have emerged, the Minneapolis Parks Foundation and the Minneapolis Parks Legacy Society (MPLS), and she suggests both could share the building, with the Foundation upstairs and MPLS in the basement drafting room. (2) Scheduling and logistics of moving environmental staff out of house into old police offices when police move into new offices on lower level of the headquarters building. (3) Lease terms. (4) Access policy.

[Quick recent history: The Wirth house was historically the superintendent’s residence. Superintendent Fisher moved out and was the last superintendent to live in the house. Superintendent Mary Merrill Anderson signed a lease with MRPA for the 5,000 square foot plus mansion overlooking Lyndale Park on the northeast corner of Lake Harriet. The lease terms were for $750 a month, including utilities. Merrill Anderson became president of the MRPA the following year, and is now running for Park Board as an at-large commissioner.]

Mason also suggests a reception for the Park Board commissioners and the Minneapolis Parks Foundation board of directors at the house [as the two parties of reportedly not met one another], with a historical tour provided by MPLS.

Young supports Mason’s comments and asks how does the board move the ideas forward. Which committee considers the lease?

Staff: Siggelkow says if they are deciding on the type of use of the house, it would go through the Planning committee.

Berry Graves says the lease to MRPA established a policy as to use, so there is no impediment to using it as suggested. She says it is a win/win situation.

Fine moves that the whole business be referred to planning staff, who will present their preferred usage to the Planning Committee. [wag the dog]

Hauser complains that they need a report from staff about their needs for space. [how about that big headquarters building?] She complains that some people have said the MRPA did not pay enough rent and wants to know what other groups are offering to pay.

Berry Graves addresses Hauser and says do I hear you saying we will request more rent than the MRPA paid?

Young points out the house is historic and that both the Foundation and MPLS are non-profits providing valuable services to the park system

Olson says the house needs repairs [funny, the MRPA was supposed to fix the house up — what happened?]. He wants to get money from potential tenants for the repairs.

Mason says that MPLS has offered to raise money for some restoration work. She does not believe this issue needs to go through planning department.

Hauser says “call the question.” [a misunderstanding of Robert’s Rules of Order, shared by many on the board.]

Erwin support Fine’s motion.

Vote is taken. Berry Graves, Young and Mason are all opposed. Motion PASSES 5 to 3.

Young moves to have staff report to Planning Committee within 60 days, and to allow for 3 public visits to the house during the coming summer.

Mason says we could still have an access policy regardless of future use, and adds it as a friendly amendment.

Young clarifies her motion.

Olson asks Rietkerk if maybe he doesn’t have too many projects and if maybe 60 days is not enough? [hint-hint, nudge-nudge…]

Rietkerk says his staff his absolutely buried with work, that he has absolutely no time at all, does not see the rush to come up with a future use, etc.

Fine makes some statement about a meeting he and Gurban had with MPLS that “went well.” He claims that access to the house can just be worked out with the staff, that is Gurban. Says what’s the rush to make policy?

Kummer asks to make a friendly amendment removing the 60 day limit from Young’s motion.

Young says she will accept Kummer’s amendment if it is clear regarding public access.

Berry Graves wants to know “what meeting” went on between Gurban, Fine and MPLS.

Olson says he suggested the meeting in December.

Amended motion PASSES allowing public access 3 times this summer.

[Ultimate disposition and policy for the house remains buried in committee for as long as the majority “5” want to keep it out of the public’s hands — either forever, or until we kick them out of office this November — your choice.]

* New Business




Passes unanimously on a role call vote.

– Walt Dziedzic’s discussion item postponed to next meeting in his absence.

* Petitions and Communications

All commissioners are getting lots of letters from DeLaSalle students, parents, alumni.

Mason says she has continued to get follow-ups from Bryn Mawr and other Bassetts Creek neighborhoods regarding the Bassetts Creek Master Plan, and about which the neighborhood association sent a letter asking for an official response last summer. Could the Park Board please respond?

Erwin announces he will not be seeking re-election.