Monthly Archives: November 2005

City Pages: Pro-development faction on park board got big 11th-hour financial help

In this recent article by Britt Robson at the City Pages, we learn that after a large amount of developer financed help funneled through a front group PAC, there was a nice quid pro quo for at least one contributor.

» A Little Help from Their Friends

Why did a developer and a billionaire venture capitalist give $10,000 each to a Minneapolis Park Board PAC?

by Britt Robson
November 23, 2005

Leading up to the city elections held earlier this month, the battles between old-guard DFLers and the so-called reform faction on the Minneapolis Park Board often grew so heated and so personal that it was easy to forget that there were differences of policy as well as of personality underlying the fight.

But the differences may have been underscored during the run-up to the election by an extraordinary show of generosity on the part of two prominent political donors: Campaign records made public just before the election showed that developer Paul Klodt and venture capitalist Vance Opperman had donated $10,000 each to an old-guard-friendly organization called People for Independent Parks [PIP], which in turn poured a lot of resources into closely contested races in Districts Five and Six. In the end, old-schoolers Bob Fine and Carol Kummer won those two seats, helping to keep would-be board reformers on the short end of a 5-4 board split.

What prompted such a show of largesse in a race where the contribution limit on political donations to individual candidates runs from $300 a year (for district seats) to $500 a year (for at-large seats)? «

» Because PIP was formed so late in the campaign, the PAC did not need to file a campaign finance report until just before the recent election, covering contributions through October 21. That report reveals that more than 80 percent of the $23,600 raised by the group came from Klodt and Opperman.

Though precise expenditure figures were not available, PIP seemed to deploy much of that sum on behalf of park board incumbent Carol Kummer, who was generally regarded as the most vulnerable of the old guard seeking reelection. On October 5, Klodt contributed $10,000 to PIP. During the last two weeks of the campaign, no fewer than four PIP-sponsored pieces of literature blanketed the District Five area where Kummer was running. On November 8, Kummer defeated Jason Stone by a mere 300 votes, out of 12,796 total ballots cast.

Just six days later, on November 14, a proposed 233-unit housing project to be developed by Klodt, known as Hiawatha Flats, was brought before the Minneapolis Planning Commission. Although the commission agreed to rezone the area, located at East 43rd Street and Snelling Avenue in south Minneapolis, to accommodate the development, they denied the issuance of a conditional-use permit that would have moved the project forward. The vote to stymie Klodt’s Hiawatha Flats was 6-1. The lone vote in favor of Klodt was cast by the park board representative to the planning commission — Carol Kummer. «

Read the entire article here.

Local Bloggers Support Reform

The New Patriot writes “The Minneapolis Observer also saw a big win for Rybak, and additionally found that the park board reform movement came up short. The reformers have three seats on the board, with a swing vote from Tom Nordyke. The ossified park board incumbents all survived. Disappointing.

David Polaschek over at Dave’s Picks writes “Is Minneapolis Park Board heading to a more harmonious future? Somehow I suspect not.” He also says “we deserve a better Park Board.”

The Moderate Republican writes “If you live in Minneapolis, voting in a new park board is reason enough to show up at the polls on November 8th.”

Park Board Meeting Report 11/2/2005

Meeting called to order by President Olson

Agenda Approved

Reports of Officers

River District Sara Ackman in for Jon Oyanagi

showed DVD of photos from various rec center Halloween parties with Monster Mash as the music
total number of attendees 4015 kids under 17 and 1572 adults ( includes numbers from Creekview Park’s haunted house which was open more than one evening)
biggest turn outs at Creekview, Folwell, Webber, North Commons and Logan Parks.

Commissioner Dziedzic comments on the “fear Factor” at Bottineau Park being very high

Commissioner Olson thanks the staff, donors and volunteers for all of their hard work.

Lakes District Paul Hokeness

Sailboats off of the lakes
converting the mowers to snowplows and brooms
soccer and football wrapped up and now taking sign ups for basketball and volleyball
Lots of people at the Halloween Parties
Great haunted house at Armatage Park

the Lowry Hill neighborhood Association is donating $30,000 in NRP money for upgrading Kenwood Park

The lakes district has hired a planner ( is this a new hire or from within … inquiring minds would like to know)
The Lake of the Isles bike trail is in and had a celebrity rider….Sir Paul McCartney

Minnehaha District Eileen Kilpatrick

Halloween parties at the parks and 3 big features…

outdoor celebration at Minnehaha Park with hay-rides
Pre-school Halloween at Pearl Park and
Haunted house at Powderhorn Park

2 new skate-parks are open at Brackett and Morris parks

on Oct 29th McCrea park hosted the Ed Solomon football tournament

And the Minnesota Recreation and Parks Association conference was held in Rochester MN and the keynote speaker Dr. John Compton form Texas A & M had many compliments for the MPRB.

The Board now moves to consent business and passes the 4 recommendations about the Paddleford Company dumping Raw Sewage into the Mississippi River. The term Raw Sewage is changed to inadequately treated sewage per the agreement with the MPCA per the Paddleford’s attorney. Go to this link for specifics… -02-05Regular.pdf

All Pass

Unfinished Business

Commissioner Young makes a report from the Charter Commission ( held earlier in the evening) that the commission has delayed forwarding the 8th draft so that during the next 4 weeks the additions request by the MPRB as well as some from the Library Board can be considered and a subcommittee was formed to handle it ( which may lead to version 9).

Petitions and Communications

Commissioner Erwin was glad to announce that the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization ( MWMO) had funded many MPRB requests except for a Green roof for the headquarters building.

Commissioner Young has had many calls regarding Peavey Park

Commissioner Kummer had copies of the Charles Birnbaum editorial for all to read.

Commissioner Dziedzic mentions the Cadillac prize was not given out to the best halloween party due to a tie and he also mentions that the U of M boathouse has had a delay.

Commissioner Hauser gives an example of how the new district manager system is working with her only having to contact one person to get an answer to a constituent’s problem with a curb cut.

She has also been receiving calls about Peavey Park and went with GM Schmidt to a meeting at the American Indian Center where there was much dismay over the closing and a renewed call for a facility at East Phillips.

Commissioner Fine thanks staff etc.. for Halloween parties and gives compliments to the folks at the Linden Hills rec center for their giant Muppet theme Halloween rooms.

Commissioner Erwin compliments the staff on getting the proposal in to get the MWMO funds mentioned above

and Commissioner’s Young and Kummer mention the Halloween parties they attended and how nice they were.

Public Hearing for the DeLaSalle “design” motion for getting on with the EAW ( environmental assessment worksheet )

Barry Clegg: The MPRB has never had a discussion of the following for the public…..

1) Is this an appropriate use for a regional park?
2) Why are you building soccer/football fields here when there are a dozen or more within a 5 minute drive?

Christine Viken: After hearing DeLaSalle’s attorney at the previous hearing comment that the stadium should be adjacent to DeLaSalle as no one would ask that a lab or classroom to be non- adjacent Ms. Viken pointed out that many entities must have non adjacent facilities due to zoning laws and restrictions. She again reiterates that some on the board should reconsider their impartiality based on their ties with DeLaSalle both past and current.

Edna Brazaitis: Ms Brazaitis comments on the poor public process that the MPRB used in their CAC that did not allow for public input or the reaching of a consensus. She suggested that the MPRB should come up with a better plan for future projects ( and her 90 seconds are up per President Olson)

Eric Gallatz (sorry about the spelling): Thanks the MPRB and the DeLaSalle CAC for their time. DeLaSalle has been going through the process in good faith and hopes that the MPRB is doing the same. Feels the questions about appropriateness regarding the facility have been answered and would like a stronger commitment from the MPRB and hope to get it from them passing the motion tonight regarding approval of the plan sent for the EAW.

Judith Martin: She attended all three meetings of the DeLaSalle CAC and did not feel that many questions were answered except from DeLaSalle’s point of view. She points out again that both landscape architects on the CAC voted against the plan and the the public purpose for this facility that would warrant the MPRB’s participation has yet to be defined. She also points out that by closing Grove St to build the stadium would alter the historical district.

Arlene Fried: Ms. Fried states that by limiting the public to 90 seconds of speaking time the board is doing a disservice to the entire process.

Patrick Falicetta ( sorry again if I misspelled) teacher at St. Charles Middle School voices his frustration that his team is playing in Shoreview. Why must city kids play in the suburbs. Vote for this and Vote for Minneapolis kids.

Thomas Kelly: DeLaSalle alum and 64 year Minneapolis resident. He urges to pass the motion from the CAC as he has known the CAC chair Mr. McKasy for years and trusts him to have chaired well.

Tim O’Hara: Thinks that parks are for kids and this would be more welcoming to kids ( the stadium vs the open field and tennis courts) and urges the MPRB to move forward.

Janet Demming: Ms. Demming a self proclaimed sports mom and now grandma drives all over to watch her grandkids play sports. Many suburban and small town schools do not have adjoining fields. She recommends rebuilding a sports stadium for Minneapolis youth at the Parade site.

John Chaffee: Mr. Chaffee points out that the MPRB will be trading approx. $7 million dollars in land for playing field and gym time worth about 1/2 million dollars and wants to know if 1) this is legal and 2) What is the public getting for this $ 6.5 million gift? And what about the money spent to build the now soon to be removed tennis courts?

Patrick Scully: Points out that this is a land use issue and that the bigger picture is not being addressed. Where is input from the Board Members? Where is a master plan for the park system and how would this fit? Are the citizens of Minneapolis getting a good trade? Why is this facility in particular? How will it serve the public at large?

Janice Nall: Ms Nall also has questions for the board. When will the public have access, from midnight until 6 am? How will time conflicts be avoided? Would like a more specific schedule of days, months and hours the public will have access before this deal goes forward.

John Derus: What does it matter what the land is worth as this isn’t a give away it is a joint agreement. What is the value of the land the homeowners are on and are they paying enough taxes based on the value? Could the city be getting more from these people? This parkland isn’t used as a park it’s used for housing.

Nikki Carlson: Ms. Carlson says nothing new is being discussed here, most people she’s talked to are for the stadium and do not understand what all the fuss is about.

Jan Hively: Language makes a difference and what we are talking about here is not an athletic field but a stadium complete with lights, a sound system, scoreboard and bleacher seating for 750 people. She also was not happy that the CAC did not hear from anyone representing outside environmental groups or historical groups.

August Berkshire: As a representative of the Minnesota Atheists working with both the ACLU and Brian Rice, he feels that …
1) When the stadium is being used on “city time” all city laws and ordinances should apply
2) City time should be scheduled through the MPRB and not DeLaSalle

Judy Blaseg: The MPRB entered into the 1983 agreement and as a party to it should hold up their end of the deal. **

Brother Michael Collins: Brother Michael talks about the need for a lesson in how cultures function and that everyone does not have the ability to drive. He compares the situation to New Orleans where the non drivers were left to weather the storm and following chaos. DeLaSalle isn’t begging we just want the agreement to be kept. The homes at the north end of the island were also referenced in this agreement and their part of the deal has been met. **

** to all, look at the alumni letter that was sent out by DeLaSalle this spring and see the lines for the regulation field in the ariel photo and the tennis courts, that is what was offered in the 1983 agreement and that is what is shown in the photograph

NOTE FROM LIZ: This photo was printed along with an article in the Island Review Spring 2005 issue. Due to copyright laws I will not be scanning it in and sending to anyone but I was sent a copy by a DeLaSalle alum who is also my godfather. I would imagine they have copies at the school library.

Public hearing is closed.

MPRB discussion of the DeLaSalle motion moved by Commissioner Fine and seconded by Commissioner Dziedzic….
Commissioner Fine reads part of the motion, President Olson calls on Commissioner Erwin and he reads the entire motion and explains to those watching on TV what exactly will be voted upon ( meaning this is just a design vote not an actual go ahead and build vote ). The various commissioners weigh in on how they will be voting and make some
speeches including Commissioner Berry Graves mentioning a shale base on Nicollet Island that could hamper any construction. The discussion returns to Commissioner Erwin who would like to add a friendly amendment to include a non-discrimination policy, drop the extra parking lot next to the canal and add more landscape planting. Commissioner Fine does not accept it as friendly and then it becomes a ( non-friendly) amendment about including the non-discrimination policy that is part of the MPRB and city policies. He states that DeLaSalle wants some good faith steps taken and he would not consider it fair to lead them on because without these assurances he will not vote to continue.

The discussion there after circles around if it is the proper place to put it in and again Commissioner Erwin points out that without it he will not vote to continue the process.
Commissioner Fine asks Council Rice for an opinion which is basically you can ask for what you want whenever you want. The amendment addition is passed. Commissioner Young then asks to add an amendment to include the dropping of the canal lot and addition of the landscape plantings as alternatives for the EAW design. This also passes. At this point discussion starts on the NEW and improved original motion.

Commissioner Mason states she believes the 1983 agreement has been met and does not see the public purpose for this facility and will be voting NO.

Commissioner Fine doesn’t believe it’s been met and claims by eliminating the tennis courts to build the field will never be met. ( so DeLaSalle can come back and ask for them again???) This would be adding value to the park system.

Commissioner Hauser states that since DeLaSalle is putting up 2/3 of the land the MPRB isn’t losing $7.5 million but gaining $15 million in value (2/3 may be stretching the facts a bit there from the schematics available).

Commissioner Dziedzic states that there is a public purpose and it is “There is a public purpose and the public purpose is that youngsters are gonna benefit. Whether it be in the classroom with math, reading, writing or arithmetic or on the athletic field with the obesity problem that we have today whether it’s gonna be playing football or soccer or just a regular gym class the kids are gonna benefit. The education that the Christian Brothers or not too many Christian Brothers left anymore, or the teachers give the 650 students at DeLaSalle most college bound, 40% minority, it’s a great education. I think that’s the public purpose.” (this is verbatim from the DVD and do not ask me what he meant I have no idea)

Commissioner Olson states that this is a good private/public venture and is what is needed to bring Minneapolis back to what it used to be. ( which is ……..)

The vote is taken 8 ayes, 1 nay ( Commissioner Mason)
The regular meeting adjourns at 6:20 pm and a break is taken before going to the Planning Committee.

6:30 Planning Committee

Hennepin County will be reconstructing the Portland AV bridge over Minnehaha Creek from April to July of 2006. Tim Brown engineer/planner for the MPRB introduces the consultants who give a presentation. The detour planned is on 35W and Crosstown which had the commissioners concerned and recommending additional public meetings and the historical appearing ( 1939 WPA style) arches will be included in the new facade. There were also some concerns about which agency would be maintaining the lighting. The motion to approve construction passed out of committee.

Study Report on Minnehaha Creek

Mike Wyatt of the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (MCWD) presented the Final Report of the Minnehaha Creek Visioning Partnership. The main focus was on the physical condition ( flow and bank erosion) of the creek and the aquatic life and wildlife.

Commissioner Dziedzic asks if Lake of the Isles is part of the watershed and when informed that it was requested that the staff look into getting funds from MCWD to finish up the Lake of the Isles project.

Commissioner Fine thanked everyone who worked on this as it encompassed cities from Minnetonka to Minneapolis.

Planning Adjourned at 7:05

Admin and Finance called to order by Vice Chair Dziedzic at 7:05

Ms. Sommers ( the new PR Guru at the MPRB) gave an update on the Public Information DVDs ( commercials for the parks)

She gave some stats on the shelf life of the DVDs and where it might be appropriate to have them, rec centers, schools, libraries. She said they were edited a bit to have more sports shots to include more seasons, the website address, the Lupients and that they have 4 different sound tracks now. The voice over errors will be fixed when Mr. Quillacy returns from Italy. The budget for the project is $20,000 for all 4 segments.

They are shown again.

Commissioner Young asks if anymore are planned to which Ms. Sommers replies that 2 more may be in the budget, one on the Chain of Lakes and the other on winter activities.

Commissioner Dziedzic asks where they will go… to the website, on cable tv after the meetings, the rec centers, libraries, school .

Commissioner Young suggests a piece on the local neighborhood parks and Ms. Sommers adds that maybe an explanation of the difference between a local and a regional park would be good.

Commissioner Berry Graves asks if the MPRB is gifting the DVDs to the various places and Ms. Sommers replies they will be and only cost $2 ea. (but a DVD of a meeting costs $5…hummmm)

Admin and Finance adjourns at 7:30 pm

Star Tribune Editorial: Election Results

» Both mayors should enjoy harmonic relations with their respective city councils. Coleman’s disposition and experience as a former council member should help. Minneapolis’ newly elected body is, if anything, friendlier to Rybak than the previous model.

Labor — especially the police union — took a big hit when Cam Gordon, Betsy Hodges and Elizabeth Glidden (each with ties to Rybak) won open City Council seats. The city’s old-style, insider politics seems in full retreat.

The deeply divided Park and Recreation Board may pose an exception. Reformers fell 300 votes short of taking control when Carol Kummer narrowly retained her District 5 seat. Whether the board’s longtime combatants resume their old feuds depends on what might have been learned from a turbulent campaign.

Our hope is for a fresh start. «

Read entire editorial at Star Tribune website.

VOTE – General Election – Tuesday, 11/8

Tuesday, November 8, General Election

Polls are open 7:00 AM – 8:00 PM

Further election information is available at the Minneapolis city web site.

Park Watch enthusiastically endorses the following candidates who are capable of working together to identify and find solutions for the Park Board’s existing problems:

  • District 1: LuAnn Wilcox
  • District 2: no endorsement
  • District 3: Scott Vreeland
  • District 4: Tracy Nordstrom
  • District 5: Jason Stone
  • District 6: Jim Bernstein
  • At-large (city wide): Rochelle Berry Graves
  • At-large (city wide): Tom Nordyke
  • At-large (city wide): Annie Young

On November 8, Vote for a Better Park Board!

Next Tuesday, remember to vote. Make your voice heard to demand the better Park Board we deserve.

Park Watch enthusiastically endorses the following candidates who are capable of working together to identify and find solutions for the Park Board’s existing problems:

  • District 1: LuAnn Wilcox
  • District 2: no endorsement
  • District 3: Scott Vreeland
  • District 4: Tracy Nordstrom
  • District 5: Jason Stone
  • District 6: Jim Bernstein
  • At-large (city wide): Rochelle Berry Graves
  • At-large (city wide): Tom Nordyke
  • At-large (city wide): Annie Young

These candidates are also endorsed by the the Sierra Club.

Find your Park District using this official Adobe Acrobat PDF map and your polling place at this link.

Park Watch’s endorsement announcement can be found here.

More campaign-related information.

City Pages: Park and Wreck

In an entertaining article subtitled “This election season, the dysfunctional Minneapolis Park Board is ripe for reform,” Britt Robson reports on the higher profile the Park Board has in this election:

“ the park board has been a poster child for unchecked government. ”

» Despite these impressive credentials, the park board has traditionally kept a relatively low political profile throughout its long history. In the past few years, however, a series of embarrassing incidents and controversies has contributed to the impression that the MPRB has been operating like a private club, rife with cronyism and a lack of public accountability. More than that, there have been controversial expenditures by the board over the years, and an unseemly rift on the board itself. Now, on the verge of an election in which all nine seats–six district positions, and three at-large–on the park board commission are up for grabs, this typically sleepy corner of city government has become a highly scrutinized hotbed of political activity.

The defining event of the recent park board power struggle, one that birthed a cadre of reform-minded board critics, happened in December 2003, when the board hired its current superintendent, Jon Gurban. Not only hadn’t Gurban participated in the interview and screening process, but his candidacy was unknown to the public–and four of the nine commissioners–until just hours before the meeting to elect him. At the time, he was executive director of the Minnesota Recreation and Park Association, a state entity, and a former high school classmate of then-park board president Bob Fine.

In short, the park board has been a poster child for unchecked government. The uproar over Gurban’s hiring motivated a group of citizens to form Minneapolis Park Watch, which set up a website and began issuing detailed minutes and critiques of subsequent park board meetings. Among many complaints, Park Watch members charged that the minutes of board meetings were too vague, and that public feedback was discouraged because of scant prior notice of meeting topics and too little time set aside by the board to hear citizen concerns. «

Read the entire article on the City Pages website.

Star Tribune Park Board Endorsements

The Star Tribune gets it half wrong, half right with their endorsements, endorsing Jason Stone, Tracy Nordstrom, Scott Vreeland and Tom Nordyke. While arguing for reform, the editorial strangely endorses a few of the very commissioners causing the problems the Star Tribune criticizes.

“Much of the blame for the board’s reputation for arrogance, inside maneuvers and factionalism falls to Bob Fine, the former president.”

» The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board needs a good housecleaning. …

[I]n general, the reformers are right. The board has deteriorated into petty factions. Personalities clash. Priorities are at odds. Too often the board’s process has been abused. …

The majority has operated as a cozy, insider group that bypasses citizen involvement to get what it wants. The bizarre manner in which it hired Jon Gurban, a man who had neither applied for nor interviewed for the superintendent’s job, is one example. Another is the way it tried to push through the DeLaSalle football field. We happen to think the high school (under strict conditions) should get its field and that Gurban is doing a reasonable job. But process matters. Power plays and shortcuts only serve to invite the widespread public distrust that the board now suffers. …

A fresh start is badly needed. The old politics of arrogance, expedience and gathering only the votes needed to ram something through is giving way to a new consensus style that invites exhaustive input from citizens. That requires patience, humility and respect for an often ill-informed public.

Not only must the board be more transparent, it needs a sharper vision and better planning. It needs financial creativity, partnerships and collaboration. It needs greater understanding that parks aren’t just for recreation and environmental protection but for enchantment — the generous use of beauty to lift the urban spirit. Locating a new park headquarters in a concrete machine shed with a big front parking lot violates everything about that principle. Theodore Wirth would have wept. «

Read the complete editorial at the Star Tribune website.