From the Southwest Journal Parks Notebook by Mary O’Regan and Dylan Thomas
Park Board superintendent reelected
On May 16, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board voted to reelect Superintendent Jon Gurban, extending his term another three years. Park Board Commissioner Annie Young, who did not support Gurban’s initial election in 2003, proposed that his new contract include an annual performance review and work plan.
The board compromised and will include her suggestions in the negotiations with Park Board President Jon Olson, but not in Gurban’s contract. Young also asked that the board review his contract before its presentation to the superintendent, but her request was denied.
Gurban’s reelection took place in the wake of a civil liberties controversy. Arlene Fried, co-founder of the citizen group Minneapolis Park Watch, was cut off during the open forum section of the May 2 board meeting. She attempted to recite a list of 10 “poor management practices” under Gurban’s authority, but midway through the fifth item, Olson interrupted and moved on to the next issue without allowing Fried to continue. An attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to the Park Board – on Fried’s behalf – accusing them of violating her First Amendment rights.
During the open session at the May 16 meeting, Fried was allowed to speak, but by then the board had already reelected Gurban.
“Allowing me to speak after you have voted is an insult to me and to freedom of speech,” she told the board. “What you are conveying to your constituents is that what we have to say is not important.”
In this instance, Olson interrupted Fried’s speech multiple times and attempted to end early her allotted three minutes.
Don’t rain on my Parade Stadium
The city of Minneapolis has issued a stop-work order on the reconstruction of Parade Stadium, claiming that a conditional-use permit is needed for the project to continue. The Park and Recreation Board, which is overseeing the plan, insists that it has applied for all of the necessary permits and that the stop-work order was a mistake.
“I think that was a very regrettable piece of action by some uninformed bureaucrats,” said Superintendent Jon Gurban. “We have done much more work elsewhere in this city and never had a conditional-use permit.”
Construction on the stadium is continuing despite the city’s order. The $1.2 million project – which sits just west of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden – includes stadium seating, grandstands, and a $48,000 electronic scoreboard. The Park Board and Public Works are in the process of designing a new road that will stretch from Dunwoody Boulevard to Kenwood Parkway, cutting through the stadium parking lot.
Though the board had received a proposal from the Minnesota Thunder about using the stadium for soccer games, Gurban insists that the site will exist primarily for youth sporting events.
Also included in the Parks notebook were reports on the transfomation of Hidden Beach on Cedar Lake, and the buckthorn removal and follow-up work at Brownie Lake. To see these reports and the entire original notebook, visit the Southwest Journal website.