The September 21 meeting of the Park Board started at 4:30pm with a closed-to-the-public session to discuss workers’ compensation litigation.
At 5:07pm, the doors were opened to the public and I entered promptly. Before I could even sit down, President Jon Olson had already convened the regular meeting, gotten the agenda approved, gotten the minutes for the September 7 meeting approved and was starting the Reports from Officers.
REPORTS FROM OFFICERS
– Superintendent Jon Gurban: gave his usual self-congratulatory and stand-up comic routine of extolling the wonderful things that had happened and doling out small dollops of praise to staff and commissioners, while generally avoiding substantive information. He mentions meeting with Three Rivers parks regarding getting some resources for Wirth Park winter recreation. He also attended a Met Council meeting regarding Lake of the Isles and getting the big renovation project there done. The Park Board “needs” [wants] $5 million from the state to finish it. Meeting was also attended by a number of other “big shots” such as Mayor R.T. Rybak and CM Lisa Goodman [IIRC].
Commissioner Marie Hauser interrupts the reports to interject a superfluous remark praising Gurban’s appointment to the hosting committee for the 2010 annual meeting for the National Recreation and Park Association being hosted by local affiliate the Minnesota Recreation and Park Association, Gurban’s former employer. [Maybe it is something of an accomplishment, considering Gurban traded lawsuits with his former employer.]
– General Manager Don Siggelkow introduces the Park Board’s new Public Relations person, Dawn Sommers, formerly of Three Rivers Parks. He also says the Teamsters approved their contract with the Park Board with a 2% compensation increase.
– Lt. Robert “Robbie” Goodsell of the Park Police presents the monthly report in Chief Brad Johnson’s absence. Item of most note was a new motorcycle lease program which saves the motorcycle patrol. Previous lessor raised the rates beyond what they could afford, but they got a new deal from Faribault Harley Davidson. Goodsell has nothing but good news, especially with regards to the motorcycle patrol program.
Commissioner Carol Kummer asks if they drive the motorcycles on trails to enforce separation of pedestrians on pedestrian trails from bicycles on bicycle trails. Goodsell answers that motorcycle patrols do enforce those regulations [but avoids making Kummer look foolish by saying they don’t regularly drive on those same trails].
Commissioner Walt Dziedzic digresses into some unnecessary story about giving a Park Police officer the thumbs up when he saw the officer giving a motorist a ticket. He encourages the Park Police to give more “tags”.
Comr. Hauser complains about traffic in south Minneapolis.
Commissioner Annie Young states that Cedar Field is still giving the community problems and needs more law enforcement effort.
Commissioner John Erwin remarks on problems with motorists passing each other on parkways, especially West River Road. Apparently that’s not a legal maneuver on parkways, although as Erwin points out there markings are so poor no one can tell. He suggests signs to state the regulation so that people are aware of it.
2.1 Approving final payment to a contractor is quickly approved without discussion or opposition.
2.2 Approving a complete settlement for a workers compensation claim, roll call vote: Erwin abstains as he was absent from the 4:30pm discussion and therefore is not adequately informed, commissioners Vivian Mason and Rochelle Berry Graves are absent and remaining 6 vote Yet. Approved.
REPORTS OF STANDING COMMITTEES
* Planning Committee – chair Bob Fine
4.1 Approval of schematic design for phase 1, west bank of Above the Falls Master Plan.
Dziedzic digresses about an East side memorial park, toward the river from the Grain Belt brewery. Olson asks if this has anything do with the West side plan they are approving [it doesn’t]. 4.1 is Approved with none opposed.
* Administration and Finance Committee – chair Hauser
7.1 Approve increase in expenditure on fertilizer. Passes with Kummer opposed.
* Nothing gets discussed.
9.1 Resolution supporting grant funding application to MN DNR for shore land restoration at Lake Hiawatha. Quickly moved by Fine. Kummer talks at some length about what a great opportunity this is. She says it will keep geese and dogs out of our lakes. Olson asks what’s wrong with dogs in the water? Kummer says it is bad for water quality reasons. APPROVED 7 Yes, 2 Absent.
Olson argues with Young about procedure, which committee should take up environmental considerations of fertilizer purchase, etc. [There was supposed to be a report on “Integrated Pest Management” including fertilizer usage during the Operations and Environment Committee meeting chaired by Young.]
Young moves to reconsider 7.1 (fertilizer purchase), being on the prevailing side. She wants to vote no.
Erwin points out the purchase is for this year’s procurement versus next year’s policy on types and usage. He says they should proceed.
Hauser says “the universe is made up of chemicals” and so concern about using chemicals in the parks is misplaced. She asks “general manager Schmidt, do these fertilizers contains phosphates [sic]?” If so, they would be illegal.
General Manager Michael Schmidt responds that they test the soil before deciding which chemicals to use. He says that normally none of the fertilizers they use contain phosphorus and that they are in compliance with laws regarding such usage.
Hauser remarks further that fertilizers are not poison but are to make things grow.
Young withdraws her motion.
PETITIONS and COMMUNICATIONS
* Kummer says it has been quiet except for citizen complaint about improper use of pedestrian/bike paths.
* Young says likewise quiet except the problems at Cedar Field.
* Erwin says there are issues on the parkways regarding speeding and passing, that they need signs due to lack of lane markings.
* Fine [as usual] has nothing to day. [It’s hard to believe citizens of the 6th District never contact Fine with concerns.]
* Hauser says there are safety issues at Cedar Field and mentions a lighting plan. The lights at Cedar Field are actually better than what were asked for. She also mentions people have expressed to her their “sadness” over the loss of so many elm trees and are concerned about stump removal.
* Dziedzic talks about how he couldn’t do this job if he wasn’t retired. He maunders about the great staff, Gurban, Jon Oyanagi [the River District Manager — try to find contact information for the District managers on the Park Board web site. Hiring them was supposed to make it easier for citizens to contact someone who could help.], etc. etc. ad nauseum. Then he palavers on about how great the east side coaches are, and then goes on and on about Joe Maturi, the U of M athletic director. [Looking hard for that constituent petition or communication here and not finding it.]
* Hauser gets a second chance to effuse about how great the “new system” of district managers is. [Apparently she knows their phone numbers, but we don’t.]
* Kummer takes her second opportunity to talk about how dogs are bad for lakes.
* Olson asks GM Schmidt about stump removal status. Schmidt answers that it is continuing and will continue as long as the weather permits. He says it has been a good year and they are catching up on their back log.
5:50PM Regular Meeting Recessed
** Recreation Committee called to order by chair Erwin.
Study / Report Item: Continued brainstorming on Cultural Arts Programming. Powerpoint presentation by Diane Moe, Recreation Supervisor – Cultural Arts. Report on current state of affairs. One item she mentions is the concert series in the parks, and she includes Nicollet Island as one of the locations. [This appears to be false — at least as far as public concerts on the Island go. The public amphitheater on Nicollet Island is no longer used or usable now that the Park Board has given control of most of the south end of the Island, of the Pavilion and of 2 parking lots to Mintahoe for their private use. Once upon a time, about 15 years ago, yes, there were public concerts from the concert series held at the amphitheater.]
Erwin’s intent is to get a list of desires for cultural programming from the commissioners and to create a portfolio of things to take to granting agencies and the Park Foundation for potential funding.
Fine talks about the Minnesota Orchestra performance at the Lake Harriet Bandshell and maybe moving it to earlier in the day to avoid some of the airplane traffic and noise [what makes him think there are fewer flights earlier in the day?]. He suggests working with the Children’s Theater [they already do] and tours through Minneapolis Institute of Arts [they already work with them, too].
Young (not on the committee) asks for an explanation of what Arts have to do with Science with respect to the cooperative effort they have with the Science Museum. She is asking from the perspective of a grant writer. She also mentions that developmentally challenged need opportunities as well, and is hearing about this on the campaign trail.
Dziedzic tosses out some non-sequitor about DeLaSalle and then rides his Peppermint Tent idea for many minutes, suggests putting on plays in the parks in tents that move from park to park with the Children’s Theater, etc.
6:02PM Erwin recesses Rec. Committee
Regular Meeting reconvened by VP Erwin in Olson’s absence for public Open Time.
* Mari Taffe is on the agenda to talk about stop signs on Calhoun Parkway, but is not present.
* Liz Wielinski:
“I would like to take this time to thank the staff of the MPRB, especially Melissa Shaw in IT for making the website so much more useful over the past year. The newest addition of the reports accompanying the agenda is incredibly helpful. Now the public is able to see just what information the board members have available to them in making decisions. I was especially excited to see the survey that the commissioners received in order to prioritize the budget issues for this year.
And in that vein I would appreciate the individual responses made available to the public . The website would be a great forum for them. This is a great opportunity during the election cycle for the public to see just where their commissioner’s priorities are so they can vote accordingly. I know that when I requested the individual reports last year I was told that only 5 commissioners filled out the surveys and that the ones received had been misplaced. I am hoping that by asking today, just 2 days after they were to have been received that we will avoid that administrative error.
Erwin asks staff who determines what gets put on the web site?
GM Siggelkow says they try to put information on the site that will be useful to the public.
Erwin reiterates “who?”
Siggelkow says “me…” and “the management team.”
* Steve Nelson comments on the DeLaSalle Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) membership:
“I was looking forward to seeing who my commissioner, Jon Olson, would select for the DeLeSalle CAC since we have so many good people in the Northside to pick from. People like businessmen Dean Rose who owns the Bean Scene or Keith Reitman who is also a lifelong northside resident as well as being active in the community or Susan Breedlove from Patrick Henry who would have brought a native American perspective.
I was glad the CAC list was posted on the website but I was surprised by my commissioner’s selection of Bert McKasy for it. I have nothing against Mr. McKasy but in looking him up on the internet I discovered that while he works in a law office downtown, the rest of his biography is all centered around St Paul and Ramsey county and he lives in Inver Grove Heights.
I just wanted to express my dismay that my commissioner could find no one from our district to be our voice.”
Fine moves for Regular Meeting adjournment. Passes; adjourned.
Erwin reconvenes the Recreation Committee.
Hauser says they need “more art for adults.”
Erwin says before you leave Commissioner Dziedzic [who was on his way out the door], he believes there are not enough venues in north and northeast. They need more mobile movies in the parks to get them to where the kids are in north, northeast, Powderhorn and Phillips. He says Dziedzic’s tent idea might be good. Erwin says Park Board used to sponsor a lot more festivals than they do now, and thinks maybe that would be a good idea. He asks about the planetarium and Diane Moe says it is included in their relationship with the Library.
Kummer stumbles into saying something about more sculpture in the parks, for example at Adams Triangle.
Young talks about collaboration between arts programming and environmental education opportunities. She relates this to how it is done in Denver. She suggests murals for their multiple benefits, including on and in park buildings, as each park has its own identity.
Erwin mentions something about theater venues.
Dziedzic [who has stayed a bit later due to Erwin’s “hook”] says the Marshall Street Gardens will be a future venue for arts [this is conjecture, not an existing plan]. He also suggests Edgewater and Gluek Park [when EPA clean up is done] and the “memorial” park by Grain Belt across the river from the Park Board HQ building.
Hauser says “gardens are art.” She claims gardening is the fastest growing adult activity. Then she talks about how important art is for child brain development.
Young mentions how beneficial being in nature is to children, especially urban children [studies recently mentioned in the media support this position].
6:25PM — Recreation Committee Adjourned
Administration and Finance Committee called to order by chair Hauser
3 of 5 members of committee are present, Hauser, Young and Dziedzic with Mason and Berry Graves absent [would have been just 2 if Dziedzic had completed his exit before Erwin snagged him back].
Young suggests Erwin appoint 2 more commissioners to the committee.
Hauser does not really want them but does not say no.
Erwin appoints Fine and Kummer
Hauser says 7 of 9 commissioners responded this year [last year, only 5] to the budget priorities survey, calling it a “significant increase.” She stumbles around verbally for a moment, and then asks GM Siggelkow to give a staff overview.
Siggelkow says staff was not going to do the survey again this year due to only getting 5 of 9 last year. He says it is one of the most important directions the commissioners can give the Superintendent in creating the budget. But then he got direction to do a survey anyway. [Does this seem as strange and confused to you as it does me?] Then he claims that the staff worries about accessability to more people by using property taxes for programs versus not using fees. [Any of you park users out there notice a decrease in fee usage, parking lot fees, fewer private-entity only operations, etc. in the parks?]
Fine says something about the surveys are hard to fill out now. It’s unfortunately they were not all in by Monday.
Hauser says that as we speak, Comr. Dziedzic is filling his in.
Hauser reads her top 5 priorities and her lowest 5 priorities aloud.
Erwin does the same, and Hauser presumably is recording / summarizing them.
Young does same with an obvious environmental theme.
Dziedzic reads his off: #1 is Youth Sports. His highest of the lowest is the Neiman Sports Complex (it was likewise low in Erwin’s rankings).
Hauser tries to summarize some themes of priority by eye but uses no skill at all.
Audience member comments to me that “This is the most important thing they do [setting budget priorities]. This is PATHETIC.”
[The survey seems poorly designed, mixing large, city-wide programs with small, localized programs, and likewise with various facilities.]
Item 7.1 That the Board adopt the Commissioners 2006 Budget Priorities. This is what they are working towards approving tonight.
GM Siggelkow says the information is provided tot he City’s Ways and Means committee as high level priorities. He talks some more about that process.
Erwin suggests just going with the top 5 or 7 priorities and nothing else, not mentioning the lowest priorities at all.
Dziedzic says the City nitpicked us last year and probably will do it again this year.
Siggelkow says the Mayor’s 5-year CLIC has declining City contributions to the Park Board capital budget.
Hauser wants buildings maintained so that costs are not higher later and claims she ran for the Park Board 4 years ago on that issue. [Sounds like she is stumping for the Ward 8 seat.]
Kummer says uh, yeah, building maintenance is important. She wants to know what pool and beach maintenance is versus pools and beaches. She’s not happy with the items presented, says there is overlap.
Siggelkow says the items are mostly based on accounting categories, so maintenance is separate from capital improvement. Also they are separated by property tax funded versus cost recovery via fees. He talks a bit about “pay as you go” capital work versus bonding for it.
The usual controlling faction wants to “white wash” the Neiman complex by combining it with all the other athletic fields items.
Siggelkow aids and abets by doing CYA for the Park Board on criticism regarding Neiman, although he does note that most other athletic fields do not charge usage fees like Neiman does. He also talks about the capital spending versus replacing playground equipment.
Kummer complains about failing playground equipment in a park now that is not scheduled for replacement until 2009.
GM Schmidt says that reduced capital budget has caused them to push out the replacing broken and worn out playground equipment. [After all, it’s for the kids! — er, oops, that’s another cut to the kids services.]
[It seems that some commissioners clearly did not do their homework, and that staff failed to provide clear choices for budget prioritization to the commissioners. Remember, they only do this once a year and is how they figure out how to spend $60 to $70 million.]
Hauser whines about being elected in a time 4 years ago when the capital budget was cut from $20 million to $235,000. [Those figures seem completely bogus.]
Dziedzic really lays into the park police horse patrol, criticizing for not being “real police work” of catching crooks, etc. He thinks it should be done away with. He says he rated Neiman low because there is not a lot of maintenance there and [some of] that maintenance is combined with Ft. Snelling Golf. He says the Lupient Water Park pays for itself and under pressure from Dziedzic, Siggelkow says they have broken even there in some years. Dziedzic says they need more creative marketing.
7:07PM — TORNADO SIRENS SOUND
Erwin suggest they get a general consensus and discuss the details later.
Young asks for a discussion of the budgeting process calendar. Young makes a motion to do the calendar in a certain way.
Hauser tells Young to finalize her calendar ideas and come back with them.
Fine asks how difficult it will be for staff.
Superintendent Gurban puts in that it is good that the police are in the building, that the move of the police to the building was a “good thing” because they can warn us about the weather.
Hauser recesses the meeting for 5 minutes to call home.
[I check on weather — there is a Tornado Warning until 8:00PM. We are on the second floor in a room with big glass windows.]
During the recess, Gurban says he wants to reconvene and adjourn for the evening.
(A tornado has been spotted on the ground in Brooklyn Park. Storm is moving east-south-east — generally at us, but might slip by to the north.) [It did.]
7:25PM — Hauser reconvenes meeting
Fine suggests deferring things not time important due to weather. Says budget is important, should finish it now. [Wouldn’t want commissioners Berry Graves and Mason to get their priorities heard, now would we?]
Hauser asks if they should move it to the full board or return it to committee?
Kummer is happy to make that motion and then asks if the public can fill out the priority survey online?
Siggelkow says they would have to make a simpler survey. [Don’t insult the public’s intelligence.]
Young suggests going to the full board on October 19.
Kummer moves that it go to the full board on October 5.
Hauser apologizes to Young for cutting her off and saying Young was not on the committee, when in fact Young is on the committee.
Siggelkow says the public needs something to react to.
Young moves public input to be taken on October 19.
Dziedzic thinks the building is safe and wants to continue the committee meeting.
Committee is ADJOURNED on a voice vote with none opposed.
7:30PM Hauser bolts for home.
Young calls Operations and Environment committee to order with only 5 of 9 commissioners even present, and only 3 members of the committee present.
Young moves that GM Schmidt’s report due in this committee be postponed until October 5, and apologizes to him.