Monthly Archives: May 2007

The Sequel: Minneapolis Park Board President vs. Free Speech

This is what happened after the ACLU petitioned the Minneapolis Park Board on behalf of a citizen whose “Open Time” statement urging the board not to renew the superintendent’s contract was cut off by the Park Board President.


At that May 2, 2007 meeting, the board president ordered the citizen to stop speaking when she said the current park administration failed to comply with the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act by not honoring all requests for public information. When the ACLU of Minnesota intervened, the board allowed her to speak at its May 16 meeting, but only after they had already voted to renew the superintendent’s contract. And still she couldn’t speak freely for her allotted time because of the Park Board President’s propensity to interrupt and interrogate her. Again the Park Board President tried to cut her off within her three minute limit. Only when another commissioner insisted she be allowed to continue was she able to finish the three-minute statement she had started two weeks earlier.

Star Tribune: Work begins on Loring Park play area for dogs

In a May 17 story by reporter Tim Harlow, he wrote:

Downtown Minneapolis is going to the dogs, at least 10,000 square feet of Loring Park is.

Work on the new Loring Park Dog Grounds begins tonight with a groundbreaking ceremony at 6 p.m. in the north corner of the park. When it is completed in mid-June, the off-leash area will be the first enclosed off-leash play space for dogs in downtown Minneapolis with two more on the way.

Dog Grounds, the nonprofit formed last year to get the recreational areas built, says the spaces will be similar to “dog runs” in New York City. The organization plans to create play areas in the Elliot Park and North Loop neighborhoods this year.

Read the entire story at the Star Tribune website.

Star Tribune: Minneapolis rehires Gurban to run parks

In an article subtitled “The park superintendent was given a new three-year contract. Some citizens and board members had concerns,” Star Tribune reporter Pam Louwagie wrote:

Three and a half years after hiring a superintendent who hadn’t applied or interviewed for the job, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board voted unanimously Wednesday evening to extend a new, three-year contract to him.

The vote authorized a three-member subcommittee to draft a contract that the board president will use to negotiate with Superintendent Jon Gurban.

After the meeting, Park Board President Jon Olson said that Gurban’s current salary is $114,500, … and that the board has authorized the maximum allowable under state law, or nearly $140,000.

Despite a non-sensical unanimous vote, there were some concerns about the loose-cannon style and communication with only select commissioners for which Gurban is known (to say nothing of his need for anger management and being unqualified in the first place):

Before the vote, discussion came with some cautions and direction that the committee include provisions that Gurban’s performance will be evaluated by the board every year and that the board will provide him with a “work plan” of priorities to accomplish.

Commissioner Annie Young said she wanted to include points in the contract about Gurban’s “relationship to the board and some of the communication issues that must go on here that are not happening. … I am very tired of waking up every morning or reading the paper every night and reading about a Park Board that I thought I was a part of and decisions that we’ve made.”

Autocratic and arrogant but dumb president Jon Olson did his best to quash any public notice of Gurban’s failings before pushing the vote to rehire his buddy and give him a fat raise:

The board hired Gurban in December 2003 on a bitter 5-4 vote amid shouting. Top candidates found in a national search had bowed out of the running days earlier, and he hadn’t applied or been interviewed.

Several members did not run for re-election, so the makeup of the board has changed.

His tenure has drawn criticism from some on the citizen group Minneapolis Park Watch. Member Arlene Fried spoke at the May 2 meeting criticizing Gurban’s leadership. She was cut off, and after a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union’s Minnesota chapter, she was allowed to speak again after Wednesday night’s vote.

Fried listed a host of reasons for considering a new superintendent, including circumventing procedures by attempting to bypass citizen committees on some issues and promoting plans for projects without board direction or approval.

Writer Louwagie grossly understates the level of criticism, above. She writes some members of Park Watch are critical of Gurban. In fact, all members are critical of Gurban.

Read the entire article at the Star Tribune website.

Star Tribune: New park gets a gold star from its first visitors

Linda Mack writes on the Star Tribune website about the opening of a new public-private park in downtown Minneapolis:

»Gold Medal Park, Minneapolis’ newest, opened on the Minneapolis riverfront to a snappy wind and rave reviews.«

photo of gold medal park

Tiffany Carlson wheeled to the top of the 32-foot-high mound in the new Gold Medal Park in her motorized wheelchair.

“It’s so pretty,” she said. “Much simpler than I thought it would be from the outside, but that’s the beauty of it.”

Minneapolis’ newest park opened Wednesday on a Mississippi riverfront site east of the Guthrie Theater that was originally cleared for a proposed Minnesota Twins ballpark. The 7.5 acres of green space surrounds a 350-foot-diameter mound that offers a commanding view of the Mississippi and the new Guthrie.

“It’s instant park,” said Joe Dowling, the Guthrie’s artistic director. A year ago, he said, the scruffy concrete lot was “an open-air carpark.”Many places in the world have great theater. Many have great parks. To have the two together is indeed unique,” Dowling said.

It took three months to create the park from start to finish, said Dr. William McGuire, former CEO of UnitedHealth Group. The McGuire Park Development Foundation donated the $5 million to build and maintain the park for 10 years on city-owned land. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is not involved.

The park’s name is related to the milling history of the area and refers to General Mills’ famous flour brand.

Read the entire story on the Star Tribune website.

Visit Oslund and Associates, the park designer, for photographs and design information.
goldmedalparksmall1.jpg

Star Tribune Editorial: Gold Medal Park sets a high standard

“They took all the trees, put em in a tree museum. And they charged the people a dollar and a half just to see em. Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot.”

So begins an editorial by the Star Tribune about the new Gold Medal Park, a private/public partnership. It continues:

A lot of urban green space has been paved over since Joni Mitchell wrote those words nearly 40 years ago. But today Minneapolis puts a new spin on the old song.

“We tore down a parking lot and put up paradise,” said Thomas Oslund, the talented landscape architect and designer of Gold Medal Park, the first substantial green space added to downtown since Loring and Elliot parks in 1883 and the extension of West River Parkway in the 1990s.

Considering that the Park Board added paved parking lots and permitted Mintahoe to add additional hard surface on Nicollet Island, apparently it does take a private entity to tear down parking lots and make parks. The Star Tribune concludes by saying:

This park, with its infusion of private money and operational control, should be seen not as an affront to the Park Board but as a supplement to a system that remains the city’s crown jewel. Parks and water define Minneapolis.

As other cities are discovering, private help is essential in adding green benefits to barren downtown districts.

Read the entire editorial at the Star Tribune website.

Pulse of the Twin Cities Commentary: The New Parade Stadium

In a Pulse of the Twin Cities commentary by Katie Simon-Dastych and Arlene Fried, subtitle “On Jan. 3, 2007, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) approved $1.24 million for an artificial turf field to be constructed on the site of the former Parade Stadium,” the authors wrote:

Parade Stadium was torn down in 1990 because it had become economically unfeasible-operating costs were outstripping revenues.

Also approved on Jan. 3 were a $48,000 scoreboard, a $17,500 sound system, $51,000 worth of fencing, $62,000 for stadium chair seating and $390,000 for grandstands, ramp systems, concrete pads and press boxplatform, all of which are components for a stadium.

According to the agenda and the minutes from the Jan. 3 meeting, this $1,808,500 project is being funded with 2005 and 2006 CLIC allocations of $1,709,000 and a $200,000 grant from the NFL for a total of $1,909,000. Another $50,000 from Cirque Du Soleil proceeds has been added.

According to Park Board procedures, a redevelopment project like this one is supposed to go through the Park Board’s Planning Committee; and, according to Park Board laws, it is also supposed to be reviewed by a Citizens Advisory Committee, which is supposed to be followed by a Public Hearing. All of these procedures are designed to allow public participation. And the public participation is intended to occur well in advance of the bulldozers.

But not in this instance. In early April, construction began. The Park Board administration, under Superintendent Jon Gurban’s leadership, has circumvented the Park Board’s Planning Committee process, the Park Board’s Citizens Advisory Committee process and the Park Board’s Public Hearing process. It also has attempted to circumvent the City and the City’s planning process by commencing construction without applying for a “conditional use” permit.

On April 25, the City issued a stop-work order. Challenging the City’s authority, the Park Board ordered Rehbein Excavating to continue construction. Subsequently, a second stop-work order was issued, but as of May 10, construction was continuing.

Read the entire commentary at the Pulse of the Twin Cities website.

Minneapolis Park Board president quashes free speech

Minneapolis Park Board President Jon Olson cuts off a member of the public speaking out against the extension of the superintendent’s contract during Open Time at the May 2, 2007 Park Board meeting.

Click here to see the sequel after the ACLU sent a letter to the Park Board warning them about abridging people’s rights.

May 2 Board Meeting Highlights

The following items are highlights from the May 2, 2007 Park Board meeting:

SOUTH WIRTH WOODS

Deb Boyd, MPRB staff, presented a report and recommendation based on the South Wirth Woods Trail Overlay Advisory Committee meetings. The report included a brief history of South Wirth including natural features and previous MPRB actions, as well as a summary of consensus agreements found by the 5 organization representatives and remaining differences in points of view. The MPRB staff recommended moving two portions of the Loppet trail further away from the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden perimeter.

The Planning Committee agreed to move the staff recommendation to the full board for approval with a suggestion that the Loppet Trail be limited to 16 ft. width.

The five organizations represented on the advisory committee were the City of Lakes Loppet, the Friends of Eloise Butler, the Minnesota Off Road Cyclist Association, Minnesota Audubon, and the Bryn Mawr Neighborhood Association (BMNA).

OPEN TIME INCIDENT

One of the Open Time speakers was commenting on some of the Park Boards poor management practices for the last three years. Park Board President Jon Olson reacted by raising his voice and interrupting the speaker and telling her she could not continue. The speaker then reminded Olson of her right to freedom of speech, but Olson would not allow her to continue. Later on in the meeting Commissioner Tom Nordyk spoke up in defense of citizensrights to criticize the commissioners and the superintendent.

PUBLIC HEARING RESCHEDULED

The Public Hearing on the Park Dedication Fee Ordinance was rescheduled to May 16th at 5:30 p.m. at the MPRB Headquarters. 2117 West River Road.

WIRTH HOUSE

Representatives of the Board of Directors of the Minneapolis Park Legacy Society addressed the commissioners requesting the MPRB to open the Superintendents Wirth House to the public especially the drafting room on the lower level of the house.

HEADS UP

Its anticipated that at the May 16th MPRB meeting the commissioners will be voting on renewing Superintendent John Gurbans employment contract.

Finding Minnesota: Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

WCCO’s website has this story for the 100th anniversary of the Wildflower Garden. Jeanette Trompeter reports:

(WCCO) Minneapolis It’s no secret the Twin Cities has one of the best parks systems around but many don’t know that it also boasts the oldest public wildflower garden in the country.

Within the 759 acres that is Theodore Wirth Regional Park, there is a chunk of land worth checking out. It’s a place where over a lunch hour people can tune out the hum of the city, and tune in to the peace and quiet.

“This woodland area is probably the largest area in the garden and it’s full of the wonder spring ephemerals that people seek out right about now and woodland wildflowers,” said curator Susan Wilkins.

Welcome to the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. Butler was a school teacher in Minneapolis from about 1874 to 1911.

Read the entire story on the WCCO website.