The following letter was submitted by Joyce Murphy of Lowry Hill who witnessed MPRB Superintendent Jon Gurban yelling at another Lowry Hill resident who was questioning him about the construction at Parade.
To all who represent me on the Minneapolis Park Board:
On Monday evening May 14th I went to the Lowry Hill Homeowners annual meeting at the Walker Art Center. The program for the meeting included reports about the progress that the city and state were making for the citizens of our state and city.
The next to the last speaker was Jon Gurban, superintendent of the Minneapolis Park system. Mr. Gurban spoke about a new, or as he called it a replacement Parade Stadium. He also gave a presentation on the past stadium, the present Stadium space and future plans for this space. His presentation was a computer-generated presentation about this project which he had planned and put together.
As the presentation went on one lady in the audience raised some questions about this project in relation to its impact on the neighborhood near the proposed stadium where she lived. She was told that she could ask questions after the meeting of Mr. Gurban and so the questioning stopped.
After the meeting our vice-president told us that we could question Mr. Gurban in the lobby outside of the auditorium at Walker Art Center. I decided that I would go out and listen to what he had to say and also to ask about the cost and who would pay for a project of this size. When I arrived in the lobby one lady was asking Mr. Gurban when and where there would be a Minneapolis resident’s input, and citizen’s advisory committee on a project of this size, composed of residents of the neighborhood upon whom this project will impact and also residents of the city at large. There were also two other ladies present besides me and the lady asking the questions.
Mr. Gurban stated that this was a project for the whole city and that when the plan was complete there would be a meeting at the end of the planning as the project was ready to go. She said that there should be a meeting before the project was so far along. The lady also said that this project would impact on the nearby neighbors vis a vis traffic, parking, noise, and crowding and this was a concern. Again Mr. Gurban’s answer was that this was something that was being done for the city as a whole. They both made more comments to each other concerning this project. As the conversation went on Mr. Gurban became
more agitated and he began to move up close to the lady, putting his face in into her face and moving into her space in a very threatening and overbearing manner.
He also began raising his voice and shouting at her. I was standing a little behind the lady and observing all of this and it seemed to me that he was being very aggressive and intimidating towards her so much so that I spoke up a said that he “SHOULD STOP TRYING TO INTIMIDATE HER!” (he was speaking so loud that I had to raise my voice too to be heard). He said that he was not intimidating her and that he was leaving. The lady said that she had moved to Minneapolis from out of town and was not intimidated by him.
It was a bad scene and I felt that I had to speak up and stop him because he was behaving so aggressively towards this lady. It was very unpleasant way to end my evening to say the least. His behavior was not becoming of a public servant not to mention the superintendent of the Minneapolis Park system a position of some honor and respect.
After this I forgot my question about cost and went back into the auditorium. This is what I observed and experienced and have written here to the best of my recollection. I think that this needs some kind of a looking into by you, my representatives on the park board at this time.
It was not a good experience at all and made me question what has happened here in Minneapolis that such a person could occupy a position of leadership and be responsible for the stewardship of the parks and yet treat one of the citizens of our city in such a bad manner. I am old enough to remember a time when officials and citizens were treated with respect and officials were honorable people and not bullies and tyrants.
PARK WATCH POSTSCRIPT
It is interesting to note that two nights after this unpleasant incident, Superintendent Jon Gurban was rehired with a three-year contract and an anticipated salary of $140,000 which is greater than that of the Governor.
Some concerned individuals are of the opinion that Superintendent Gurban should have been fired-not rehired-because of his refusal to comply with Park Board Ordinance 99-101 which mandated citizen input with a Citizens Advisory Committee for the $1,808,500 Parade field/stadium project BEFORE CONSTRUCTION; and because of the Park Board’s violation of Minneapolis Zoning Codes by commencing construction at the Parade site without first applying for a Conditional Use Permit; and because of Superintendent Gurban’s promoting the Parade event center project without following the Park Board’s established procedures.
And now, when a citizen questions Superintendent Gurban about complying with Park Board procedures, he shouts her down. Does Superintendent Gurban, who refuses to comply with Park Board procedures and city ordinances, who denies citizen participation and who shouts down citizen’s questions, deserve to be rehired as leader of our parks? Does he deserve to be paid a salary greater than the Governor of Minnesota?