Monthly Archives: June 2005

Star Tribune Letters: Gurban's shameful actions

Kendal Killian writes in a letter to the editor:

»Minneapolis Park Superintendent Jon Gurban says that Park Board candidate Jason Stone should be “embarrassed” for practicing his legal right to express free speech on public park land (Star Tribune, June 24).

It is Gurban who should be embarrassed for unethically misusing the Park Police as partisan political pawns. He obviously has no respect for our constitution, or our beloved parks.«

Star Tribune Letters: Gurban should be ashamed

Clare Sorman writes in a letter to the editor:

»I appreciate the Minneapolis Park Board’s recent action to reverse its absurd “policy” regarding the necessity of a permit to exercise our constitutionally protected right to free speech in Minneapolis parks (Star Tribune, June 24).

However, I was very unhappy to read Park Superintendent Jon Gurban’s response to Park District 5 Candidate Jason Stone regarding his handing out campaign literature. He stated that Stone should be “embarrassed” and should be “apologizing to the citizens of Minneapolis.”

If anyone should be apologizing, it should be Gurban for selectively enforcing this unofficial and never-used “policy” on a pro-reform Park Board candidate, and by calling 911 — which ended up burdening the taxpayers of Minneapolis with the cost of three squad cars and four police officials who told Stone that he couldn’t pass out his literature because the park was “private property.”

Stone deserves an apology from Gurban, whose actions show that the Park Board is in strong need of reform!«

Skyway News: Free speech flip-flop

By Scott Russell
Park Board staff reverses themselves; no permit required to campaign in the parks

»After taking a public relations beating and reviewing First Amendment case law, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board administration has reversed itself and will no longer require political candidates to get a permit to hand out literature in the parks.

The new policy also allows advocacy groups – on abortion, environmentalism and other non-commercial ventures – to distribute literature in parks without a permit, if they have 50 or fewer people, said Don Siggelkow, general manager for administration and finance.

The decision comes in the wake of a June 8 incident that raised free speech issues and drew the skeptical eye of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Minnesota.

Superintendent Jon Gurban summoned park police to deal with Park Board candidate Jason Stone, who was handing out campaign literature at Pearl Park, 414 E. Diamond Lake Rd., without a permit. Three squads responded to the 911 call – two park police officers driving solo and two Minneapolis officers, according to a June 15 Park Board meeting discussion.

The incident resulted in columns criticizing the Park Board in the Minneapolis Observer, Star Tribune and Southwest Journal.

Park Board staff initially defended the policy, saying if political speech was not regulated, park users would face a disruptive gauntlet of campaigners and advocacy groups.

At the Park Board meeting, Commissioner Walt Dziedzic pressed for a new look at the decade-old policy, calling the Park Board “amateurs” when it comes to First Amendment issues.

“If we go to court on some of these issues, we are going to lose,” he said.

Chuck Samuelson, executive director of the ACLU of Minnesota had weighed in, saying the Park Board policy violated constitutionally protected speech. The ACLU has received more calls about the Stone incident than it did about overturning the state’s sodomy laws, Samuelson said.

“We are surprised,” he said. “I didn’t know there was such a passion attached to the Park Board.”

A Park Board policy review was expected July 6, but on June 23, leadership issued a memo eliminating the permit requirement for politically protected speech, such as handing out literature.

Does it change Gurban’s thinking on his June 8 confrontation with Stone?

“I don’t believe that he deserves an apology,” Gurban said of Stone. “He was not in compliance with those regulations” in effect at the time.

Permits required

Since 1991, the Park Board staff had a policy that a person must have a park permit for: “The sale, distribution or circulation of any leaflets, handbills, notices, pamphlets, books, documents or paper of any kind, and the solicitation of signatures on a petition.”

Candidates or others wishing to distribute literature around the Chain of Lakes or other larger parks had to buy a $35 permit, Siggelkow said. They also have to provide a $150 refundable damage deposit and have insurance indemnifying the park – the same as anyone getting a facility use permit.

Permits for distributing literature in smaller neighborhood parks, were free, he said.

People who wanted to hand out literature had to negotiate with Park Board staff regarding where in the park they would be, Siggelkow said. Further, candidates had to be behind a table, so people came to them.

Policies at other park systems vary.

Bob Bierscheid, director of St. Paul Parks, said people can hand out literature in city parks, within certain rules, no permit required.

Similar to Minneapolis’ old policy, Three Rivers Park District (formerly Hennepin County Parks) requires candidates to get a free special-use permit to hand out literature.

Gurban said the new policy asks those handing out literature to use common sense.

“Please do not block access or egress to park buildings or block or impede traffic on parkways or paths,” the policy says. “Do not litter or bother parents and guardians who may have children in wading pools or people playing on athletic fields. Most importantly, the peaceful enjoyment and solitude of park patrons must be respected.”

The trigger

On June 8, the Park Board held a public open house at Pearl Park to discuss the new Edward Solomon Park near East 58th Street & Cedar Avenue South.

According to Stone, he stood 10 feet from the park’s main entrance – not obstructing it – and handed out literature. Gurban saw him and angrily confronted him, Stone said.

Gurban noted that Stone had attended a June 1 Park Board meeting where staff discussed campaigning regulations – and Stone knew he needed a permit to hand out material.

He repeatedly asked Stone to stop handing out literature on park property, but Stone refused, Gurban said. He characterized his response not as angry but direct.

Stone said he moved 100 feet away to a sidewalk that led to the park facility, but still was on park property.

Gurban said he told Stone he gave him no choice but to ask for park police and have the candidate removed.

Said Gurban, “Am I happy three squad cars showed up? No, I am not. I know those squad cars have better things to do than to deal with an issue like this. If I was Jason Stone, I would be a little bit embarrassed about that. All Jason had to do was to stop handing out his literature.”

Stone said he put his literature in the car, removed his nametag, and went to the meeting. He called the superintendent’s actions “ludicrous.” Stone has criticized the Park Board’s leadership, he said, and he believes Gurban’s actions were motivated by his dislike for Stone’s politics.

Gurban said his actions had nothing to do with Stone’s political views.

“I don’t know what his message is,” Gurban said. “I haven’t read his campaign literature. I have never taken his campaign literature.”

Stone said Gurban was well aware of his Park Board criticisms. In an e-mail exchange between the two provided by Stone, the candidate asked for certain budget figures, suggesting they were either “secret or unknown.”

Gurban’s response called Stone’s suggestion “stupid,” “irresponsible” and “inflammatory.”

Stone said he was not embarrassed by his actions. He rejected Gurban’s suggestion that it was a publicity stunt.

“I couldn’t have anticipated the exaggerated response to a lone candidate quietly handing out literature in a park,” he said. “Trying to cast blame on other parties for a bad policy and bad response is irresponsible.”

Commissioner Mason, a Gurban critic, offered a resolution June 15 requiring Gurban to write a formal, public apology to Stone and have Gurban reimburse the Park Board for the wasted police time.

On a voice vote, Mason’s was the only audible “aye.”«

Original article in Skyway News online.

Link: Tom Nordyke for Minneapolis Park Board, At Large

Thank you for taking the time to learn more about my campaign. Together we can make our parks even better by building a better Park Board. Our parks are one of our City’s greatest assets. As such, we need to work to increase the
quality of the environment and recreation in our parks, and be good stewards for the benefit of our community.

Link: Jim Bernstein for Minneapolis Park Board, District 6

“The legacy of the Minneapolis park system is a vast network of water and green space for people of all ages and interests to enjoy – not to be parceled off to private interests or developers.

It is not only reasonable to ask what would Theodore Wirth do – it is what every MPRB commissioner should do!”

Transcript of the 911 call that Gurban ordered a park staff person to make

Transcript of 9-1-1 Call, 06/08/05 at 6:33 p.m. bringing 3 squad cars to Pearl Park, 414 Diamond Lake Road East, to stop candidate Jason Stone from handing out campaign literature.

Operator: Minneapolis 9-1-1. Do you have an emergency?

Caller: Um, yes.

Operator: What’s the address of the emergency?

Caller: 414 East Diamond Lake Road.

Operator: Okay what’s going on?

Caller: Um, I’m not sure. The superintendent of the park system just came over to me and said that he needs the police dispatched to Pearl Park immediately.

Operator: Okay.

Caller: He’s the superintendent.

Operator: Okay what is your, your first name?

Caller: Liz.

Operator: Phone number you’re at there?

Caller: Ah, 612-370-4906. [Pearl Park Rec Center office number]

Operator: We’ll get them out there. Thanks.


Minneapolis Observer: Focus on the Issues at the Park Board

Let’s Focus on the Issues at the Park Board By Liz Wielinski

(June 24) In The Minneapolis Observer, Park Superintendent Jon Gurban is quoted saying “It should help focus things not on personalities, but on the issues,”. The problem with this statement is that Jason Stone and other truly reform minded candidates have been talking about the issues and the Big 5 incumbents come up short. Commissioner Kummer chose to align with the Dziedzic/Fine machine as did Marie Hauser and Jon Olson. The fact that they supported bad projects with huge cost overruns, and land give aways are just the issues that should be brought to the public’s attention. During the next few months while the campaign season starts going into overdrive you will see the majority on the current board try to get through projects like DeLaSalle before they lose the 5 votes that their “reciprocal agreement” scheme needs. No doubt Crown Hydro’s attorneys are drafting their “reciprocal agreement” to bring before the board prior to the end of the year.

The list I am looking forward to seeing is the Superintendent’s proposed budget cuts for 2006. What will take the hit this year? Will they want to shut off the fountains? Oops, already did that and private parties are now paying those bills. Maybe they could cut back on office space. Nope, need those off-site places to put the three new $90,000/year district managers. Cut the advertising and PR budget. So sorry, need a new PR consultant at $65,000 – $70,000 to clean up after the Superintendent. I guess they could just go back to the wading pools, grass cutting, porta-pottie, and park supervisor dollars.

I, for one, have to say that I agree with Superintendent Gurban (is that ice I hear forming in the nether-world?) that yes LET’S FOCUS ON THE ISSUES.

Minneapolis Observer: Park Board Reverses Permit Policy for Political Candidates

»(June 23) Two weeks after an altercation with a Park Board candidate sparked a maelstrom of criticism by free speech advocates, Parks Superintendent Jon Gurban today reversed Park Board policy on distributing literature in the city’s parks.

No permits will be required for individuals or groups of less than 50 to distribute non-commercial literature in the parks, said Gurban, who added that he has asked legal counsel to review the Park Board’s 1991 regulation governing such behavior. “Until we get a real clarification, we’re not going to require permits,” he said.

Gurban and the Park Board have been taking a beating in the media since June 8, when the superintendent confronted Park Board candidate Jason Stone at a community meeting at Pearl Park and demanded that he stop handing out campaign literature. Stone refused, citing free speech issues, and Gurban called Park Police, who convinced the candidate to withdraw. Stone subsequently contacted the ACLU, which is apparently looking into the matter.

But the superintendent contends that the fracas never had anything to do with free speech and argues that Stone has used the incident to boost his profile in a tough campaign against incumbent Carol Kummer. “Jason Stone wants to make it an issue of free speech,” Gurban said. “But this didn’t have anything to with free speech. It was about the distribution of literature at the parks.”

And contrary to some reports, Gurban claims he has no vendetta against Stone, who is one of several candidates running on a platform of Park Board reform.«

Read the entire story here.

Star Tribune: Minneapolis parks chief reverses flier ban

Rochelle Olson, Star Tribune, June 24, 2005

»Break out the campaign literature and head for the Minneapolis parks.

In the aftermath of a well-publicized incident, Minneapolis Park Superintendent Jon Gurban reversed a ban Thursday on handing out literature in city parks without a permit.

Legal counsel advised that “current regulations may be overly restrictive from the sense of requiring permits for individuals or small groups to distribute noncommercial information,” Gurban wrote in a memo to staff.

Gurban’s reversal memo said, “I am also asking that any individual or small group who are in the park distributing literature use common sense! By that I mean please do not block access or egress to park buildings or block or impede traffic on parkways or paths. Do not litter or bother parents who may have children in wading pools or people playing on athletic fields.”

Groups smaller than 50 won’t be required to get permits when they hand out fliers or noncommercial literature.

The reversal was brought on by a flap recently at Pearl Park when Jason Stone, who is challenging Carol Kummer for the Park Board seat in District 5, was handing out campaign brochures.

Gurban, who was at Pearl Park for a meeting, said that he told Stone that he needed a permit but that Stone kept on campaigning, compelling Gurban to have the park police called.

The police came, Stone put his literature in the car and attended the park meeting. He said Gurban owes Minneapolis residents an apology for misuse of police authority.«

Read entire story here.

Star Tribune: 100 years ago, Wirth made his first visit

The June 22 edition of the Star Tribune reports on the 100 year anniversary of Theodore Wirth’s visit to Minneapolis at the request of Charles Loring, beginning his long association with the Minneapolis park system. The paper’s story is based on the following article, written by Joan Berthiaume and Ted Wirth.

100 years ago today, Theodore Wirth arrived by train at the Milwaukee Road Depot and set foot on Minneapolis soil for the first time.

Charles Loring, on behalf of the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners was actively pursuing 42 year old Theodore Wirth, who had a stellar personal and professional reputation. Wirth had designed and implemented many projects with the famous Olmsted Bros Firm and had personally earned international acclaim for his park design skills. In addition, Wirth had an educational background and experience in the fields of horticulture, engineering and park administration

From 1883 to that date the Board of Minneapolis Park Commissioners had never had a staff Landscape Architect. Charles Loring, represented a committee appointed by the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners. The Park Board invited Wirth to Minneapolis and offered to pay Wirth’s travel expenses so they could get his advice. In reality they were trying to convince Wirth to become our second Superintendent of Minneapolis Parks.

Once Wirth had seen the possibilities for design and development of parks in Minneapolis, he was unable to resist Commissioner Loring’s offer. Theodore Wirth described his feeling this way –

“…when I bade Mr. Loring goodbye at the Milwaukee Station, I had about decided to remain in Hartford. Then, during my long journey home, the possibilities for utilization and development of those many attractive features – the lakes, the river gorge, Minnehaha Creek, and the hilly wooded country to the west – lingered constantly before my eyes, and a desire to have a hand in their development steadily mounted as I neared home.”

The Board was to pay Wirth’s travel expenses. The expenses submitted by Theodore Wirth for the trip from June 21-26, 1905, totaled $90. It was money well spent by the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners. In return for the investment, Minneapolis became the beneficiary of the number one park system in America.

There were some negotiations however. Before Wirth resigned from his secure position as Superintendent of the Hartford Connecticut Parks, the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners agreed –

1) Wirth needed a car and a driver to move him more efficiently around the city while he was designing and developing the park system. The Park Board agreed. Minneapolis had accumulated 1,810 acres of park acquisitions since they were established in 1883, however, little development had occured.

2) Wirth wanted to keep his devoted and efficient bookeeper, Christian A. Bossen. The Park Board agreed. Wirth brought Chris along from Hartford. Chris Bossen got the Park Board’s finances in order as Wirth’s assistant and when Wirth became Superintendent Emeritus in 1935, Bossen became the third Superintendentr of Minneapolis Parks.

3) One of the most well known of the many negotians was that the Park Commissioners agreed to build Theodore Wirth a home and office of his own design in a Minneapolis Park. (This was to replace the beautiful home that the City of Hartford had provided for him). The Park Board agreed. That home was built for Wirth in Lyndale Farmsted Park on the Corner of 40th and Bryant Avenue South. The historic Wirth Offices and Drafting Room in the House are the actual location where the entire Minneapolis Park System was designed or re-designed to the highest standards. Wirth, with the support of his board, tripled the size of the park system. This brought international acclaim to the Minneapolis Park System and by 1927 park planners from all over the world came to study the Minneapolis Parks.

Although the historic Wirth Home was actually (and still is) owned by the Park Board, Wirth continued living in his home until shortly before his death in 1949. At that point the home became an established benefit as the home for the succeeding Superintendents. Charles Doell lived there and so did Howard Moore, Charlie Spears and Robert Rhue. Then David Fisher objected to “living in a fish bowl” and abandoned the house in 1995. The succeeding superintendents, Mary Merrill Anderson and Jon Gurban have not lived there.

What is the highest and best use of a home with such a remarkable history? Through the efforts of the Minneapolis Parks Legacy Society the Theodore Wirth Home and Administration Building has been entered on the National Register of Historic Places. The Legacy Society has developed a program similar to those currently in place at the Stevens House and the Godfrey House. The Legacy Society has asked the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board for an agreement similar to those at the Godfrey House and the Stevens House.

The Legacy Society’s plan would open the historic Wirth Home as a service to the public at no cost to the Park Board.

A few travel expenses, a house in a park, a car and a driver in exchange for the most beautiful park system in America.

Minneapolis got a very good deal!

Call your park commissioner and ask them to support this Minneapolis Parks Legacy Society’s Wirth House project.

Call the Minneapolis Parks Legacy Society if you have any questions about the Wirth House project. 612-925-4194

See you in the parks!

Joan Berthiaume and Theodore J. Wirth, (grandson of Superintendent Wirth)
co-founders Minneapolis Parks Legacy Society