Monthly Archives: August 2007

A PARK WATCH COMMENTARY

Submitted by Arlene Fried
Co-founder of Park Watch

On Sunday, September 16, 2007, the Minneapolis Park Board will be closing its parkways and roadways to all motorized traffic for its Minneapolis Bike Tour. The Bike Tour is a Park Board sponsored event, but proceeds from the Bike Tour will not go to the Park Board. Instead, proceeds will go to the Foundation for Minneapolis Parks, a 501 (c) (3) charitable organization. And, in reviewing the brochure distributed by the Park Board and the Foundation which is promoting Superintendent Gurban’s pet project–the Parade Revival–Park Watch discovered the following statement:

“The Foundation for Minneapolis Parks has embraced the vision of the new Parade facility and is facilitating the fund-raising effort.”

So it would appear that the Park Board is sponsoring an event to raise funds for a charitable organization that is supporting the $50,000,000 Parade sports complex for which Superintendent Gurban has already spent at least $140,000 in taxpayers’ monies for initial planning costs.

So how can this be? How can a government body use its tax dollars to raise money for a charitable organization? No wonder we continue to be perplexed by Superintendent Gurban’s non-conforming management style.

Puzzled by the Parade Stadium

This article is from the August 20, 2007 issue of the Downtown Journal

By Mary O’Regan
Park Board commissioners, neighbors of project have questions about future plans for the site

Several Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) commissioners are just as confused as residents about the status of Parade Stadium, an artificial turf field west of the Sculpture Garden.

They have several questions about the project: What is the long-term plan for the area? Who gets to have a say in the matter? How much will it cost?

“Generally, the process is, it goes to the planning committee, and there’s an actual formal presentation by staff, and that hasn’t happened yet,” said Commissioner Tracy Nordstrom whose district includes the stadium. “We haven’t actually had a full discussion with the full board about Parade Stadium as a priority ever.”

According to Judd Rietkerk, director of planning for the MPRB, staff is merely trying to repair the area after Cirque de Soleil left two years ago, which wouldn’t warrant a big discussion. But it’s potential future projects that have commissioners worried.

The superintendent’s dream

Several months ago, Park Board Superintendent Jon Gurban presented commissioners with his ideas for a master plan at Parade. The drawing included a large sports training facility, a multi-story events center, grandstand seating and a giant parking lot.

“All we have is those kind of colorful drawings and some hand-scratched out design stuff that just kind of tabulate stuff,” Reitkerk said. “There is no real in-depth as far as construction documents or measuring or anything like that. It’s all basically kind of allocations, concepts.”

In 2005, Cirque de Soleil had begun some demolition of the land, which would help to prepare it for artificial turf, but after they left, it was up to the MPRB to finish the job.

Work began this spring on a major makeover for the field, including $1 million worth of new turf and lights, according to Park Board documents.

The construction violated city zoning code and, on April 25, city officials issued a stop work order on the project, but construction continued anyway.

Next, the MPRB plans to install a $29,211 irrigation system to nurture the natural grass, which commissioners OK’d at a recent meeting. Other, more expensive plans are going ahead without board approval.

Historically, the board is required to approve new capital projects over $100,000, which doesn’t include maintenance projects. The problem is that the MPRB ordinances don’t have a clear definition between capital projects and maintenance projects. As far as Parade is concerned, staff considers the current construction maintenance. But at what point does maintenance turn into a new capital project?

At an Aug. 1 study session, commissioners were informed that a brick entry plaza and road will be built on the east side of the field to replace the current winding road on the west end. The additions will cost $308,000 and help set a framework for future development.

“We didn’t ask them to approve the road,” Rietkerk said, deeming it maintenance work. “We just assumed that the road would be an integral part of the whole project.”

Public involvement

According to a MPRB staff report, funding for Parade is coming from three sources: a $200,000 National Football League grant; $50,000 from Cirque de Soleil; and $1,709,000 of MPRB capital improvement money from 2005 and 2006.

The entire budget totals $1,959,000 and so far, they’ve used $1,620,173, including the new road, plaza and public works charges. Last January, the board approved $568,500 worth of additions to the field should funding become available, including grandstands, stadium seating and a $48,000 scoreboard.

Similar to requirements for Park Board approval, capital projects over $100,000 should be brought before a non-appointed Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC). Some commissioners and residents are upset that this hasn’t happened.

“I believe that there should have been a CAC,” Commissioner-at-large Annie Young said in a recent interview. People should have been told about the money that we received for the project, she explains, what our immediate plans for artificial turf and lighting were and that “in the meantime we have some dreams.”

Gurban insists that, CAC or no CAC, the project been transparent since the beginning.

“This isn’t a case that anyone is trying to hide or circumvent approvals or anything,” he said. “In fact you could argue just the opposite, that we’ve been very public with our dream.”

Last December, Gurban presented his ideas to residents of Lowry Hill at their neighborhood board meeting. Anita Tabb, who lives on Groveland Terrace, attended the meeting and agrees that he did make an effort to inform residents. “Our perspective isn’t that they haven’t made presentations,” she said. “It’s that they haven’t asked for citizens’ approval.”

On July 26, a group of nearby residents, including Tabb, petitioned the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board to complete an Environmental Assessment Worksheet to determine the potential impacts on the surroundings. According to Gurban, a consultant is responding to the request.

Keeping commissioners informed

Some commissioners might ultimately support Gurban’s plan for Parade Stadium, but first they want to see more details and be included in the process.

“Show me what the dream is and let me give you directions,” said Young. “What is the matter with sharing your ideas?”

At the end of the brief Aug. 1 study session, the commissioners agreed to hold a longer, more extensive session about the project before their Aug. 15 board meeting. On Aug. 9, Gurban sent out a memo letting commissioners know that the study session wasn’t going to happen, because he hadn’t received any written questions in advance.

“He was not explicit [about] sending the questions,” Young said.

“I’m as miffed as anybody in the whole thing,” Nordstrom said. “The perception is that there’s something very sneaky and underhanded going on. And that’s the last thing I want the public to think because it’s an important parcel.”

The future of the stadium remains uncertain. “We’re in discussions now with OK, what do we do next?” says Gurban, citing an additional playing field or a new scoreboard as possibilities. Parade Stadium is one of many projects on his plate, he says, adding, “I got a ton of dreams.”

RESIDENTS CHALLENGE PARADE PARK PROJECT

By Bill Kell

On July 26, a group of concerned neighbors petitioned the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board (EQB), a state government agency, that an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) be conducted to review the Parade Park Project’s impact. The EQB has referred the petition to the MPRB for action.

Petition organizers are creating what they are calling the Parade Park Network, concerned residents who want to stay informed about developments and, when appropriate, come together to act.
(People who want to be included can write paradeparknetwork@hotmail.com with their name, address, phone, and email.) For questions, Anita Tabb, 612-277-6926, is the primary contact.

SW JOURNAL: Parks Notebook —tax levy, Lake of the Isles construction , the 201 building and more….

The following article by Mary O’Regan in the August 27 issue of the Southwest Journal summarizes topics covered at the August 15 Park Board meeting

Park notebook
By Mary O’Regan

Effects of bridge collapse

At the Aug. 15 Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) meeting, Superintendent Jon Gurban updated the commissioners about the effect the Interstate 35W bridge collapse has had on the parks system. Some of the first responders to the site were Park Police, he said. They were working 12-hour shifts and are now back to eight hours a day – money will be appropriated from the budget to cover overtime. The Park Board has also issued a right of easement, allowing the Minnesota Department of Transportation and federal government to design a new bridge.

Park Board tax levy

MPRB commissioners are requesting that the Minneapolis Board of Estimate and Taxation grant the maximum amount, 10.5 percent, for the Park Board’s annual tax levy increase for 2008. The commissioners will ultimately decide what the rate is, but the Board of Estimate and Taxation decides the maximum percentage.

The rate increase for the last five years was 4 percent, said Bob Fine, the MPRB’s Board of Estimate and Taxation member. “We’re asking for more than in the past.”

The Park Board will decide their 2008 rate this December. Their decision will hinge on whether the governor calls a special session, and the Legislature revives the tax bill that included increases in local government aid (LGA) that Governor Tim Pawlenty vetoed last spring.

“The hope is the governor now will pass that tax bill. If that happens, the rate that we ask may not be that high. But at least by setting the cap we have that ability to go up there,” said Fine. “If we don’t get this LGA […] we need a bigger tax increase because people want the services they’re expecting to get.”

Nike donates shoes to Park Board

Nike Inc. has donated almost 1,500 pairs of athletic shoes to the Park Board, valued at $72,000. The sneakers have been distributed to kids involved in Park Board programs, such as track and football. The gift is part of NikeSummerShoes, a program that has given more than 60,000 pairs of shoes to youth in 21 communities nationwide.

Emiliano Zapata statue

The city has received a statue of
Emiliano Zapata, a leader in the Mexican Revolution, from the Mexican state of Morelos, Zapata’s hometown. The Park Board has put Commissioner Scott Vreeland (District 3), who represents the Phillips/Longfellow area, in charge of working with the city to find a home for the statue. Commissioners mentioned several possible locations at the Aug. 15 Park Board meeting, such as Powderhorn Park, Adams Triangle, and a park in Northeast. According to Ernesto Reyes, president of Club Morelos, a Twin Cities organization, the statue should be placed near Lake Street, which is a central location for the 25,000 Minneapolis residents from Morelos.

According to Gurban, the statue is not officially being donated to the Park Board. “This should really be a city issue,” he said. “We were simply an option, a real estate option.”

Construction resumes at Lake of the Isles

Renovation work at Lake of the Isles started up again on July 31 after a delay intended to resolve historic preservation issues.

Crews have been working on projects that won’t have an impact on historic preservation issues, including stabilizing the south shoreline, reinforcing retaining walls alongside the bridges, installing concrete bench pads, raising the drinking fountain at the southwest planting area and adding 12 stone access points that lead down to the shore.

The Park Board is waiting for further approval from the State Historic Office before planting dozens of new trees around the lake. They may plant a few this fall, said project manager Deb Boyd, but the bulk will go in next spring, pending approval.

Boy Scouts want Park Board building

On Aug. 15, the Boy Scouts of America’s Northern Star Council presented commissioners with their plan for the 201 Building, a piece of property near Fort Snelling that belongs to the Park Board. They want to purchase the large building and use it as a base camp for troop members, with a climbing wall, ropes course and leadership center.

Some commissioners expressed concern about doing business with an organization that has, in the past, excluded gays and atheists from participating. A representative from the Northern Star Council insisted that their chapter is allowed to make decisions independent from the national organizations and is therefore more progressive.

Vreeland asked several times, “If I am gay and don’t believe in God, can I be a Boy Scout leader?” The representative responded that it’s up to the parents of troop members to elect scout leaders.

“I was a Boy Scout, so if you discriminate, you’re not doing a very good job of it,” laughed Commissioner-at-large Tom
Nordyke.

The board will decide whether to sell the 201 Building at a future meeting.

Park board staff's misdeeds undo 'done deal'

From the Friends of the Riverfront Website

Park board attorney Brian Rice’s pleaded with the Met Council to save his swap: But the Met Council said it went against their fiduciary duty to protect regional parksA “done deal” to let a private school build a football field on public Nicollet Island parkland fell into disarray Aug. 22, 2007 when the Metropolitan Council rejected a land swap proposed by Minneapolis park board administrative staff. Met Council members said the deal, which the Metropolitan Parks and Open Space Commission had also rejected, would violate their fiduciary responsibility to the regional park system.

But the decision came just two days after the Met Council’s Community Development Committee voted unanimously in favor of the scheme, and even a few hours before the vote stadium backers had been calling it a done deal. Why did Met Council members change their minds and their votes? They learned that Minneapolis Park Board administration had hidden the fact that the property they wanted to trade was already protected public parkland and has been since 1971.

For Met Council Member and Community Development Committee Chair Natalie Haas Steffen, that raised “trust issues.” She and a majority of the Metropolitan Council voted the deal down.

Metropolitan Council Member Natalie Haas Steffen shot an angry look toward Minneapolis Park Board staff: Citing “trust issues,” she voted against a land swap Minneapolis park board staff had proposed without telling what they knew about the property.Instead, Metropolitan Council President Peter Bell pushed a plan he admitted was “not perfect” and “messy” and which he and Minneapolis Park Board Attorney Brian Rice concocted at the last minute as Met Council members waited 20 minutes for their meeting to start. The new deal trades away regional park protections on the Nicollet Island property for the same redundant protections on the land the park board originally offered, plus a promise to allow regional park protections on unspecified park land to be named later. Bell and Rice have 30 days to construct a deal on paper that will then give the park board 18 months to come up with additional land to add to the regional parks.

But Minneapolis park commissioners never gave park staff authority to offer the original land swap, let alone the last minute replacement deal. And Brian Rice, their attorney and a DeLaSalle alumnus, gave Minneapolis park commissioners this assurance in March 2006: “There ARE restrictions on this land that the Met Council holds, and that the State of Minnesota holds. DeLaSalle is going to have to, under this agreement, get those conditions released. And if for example, the Met Council says, to DeLaSalle and the park board, and says, ‘Okay, we will release these restrictions, provided that you go out and replace this 1.3 acres of land’ – that is a cost that DeLaSalle must bear; otherwise we don’t have an agreement.”

East Phillips Park Cultural and Community Center Public Hearing

Details for
East Phillips Park Cultural & Community Center Public Hearing

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board will hold a public hearing on proposed plans, schematic design and related site improvements for the East Phillips Park Cultural & Community Center project. For further information, contact Lonnie Nichols at 612-230-6525 or lnichols@minneapolisparks.org.

Date: 9/5/2007
Time: 6:00 p.m.
Type: Public
Location: MPRB Administrative Offices, Board Room Suite 255
Address: 2117 West River Road

Park Board Agenda

A Voice of Reason

Star Tribune Letter to the Editor 8-17-2007

NICOLLET ISLAND FIELD

No need to hurry

Today the Minneapolis City Council may decide to forever close one half of Nicollet Island’s remaining two public cross-streets to build DeLaSalle High School’s football stadium. The City Planning Commission, ruling the stadium would violate numerous riverfront plans and destroy valuable river connections, asked the City Council to delay vacating Grove Street until outstanding issues are resolved.

Principles of good government dictate that the council should not rush toward irrevocably vacating Grove Street and that this action cannot meet the city’s own “no further public use” standard for street vacations. Further governmental actions are still needed to determine whether the project is even possible

Next week the Metropolitan Council considers next week whether to remove a restrictive covenant dedicating the parkland as public open space where stadiums cannot be built. Last week the Metropolitan Parks and Open Space Commission rejected removing the land from Central Riverfront Regional Park..

Star Tribune Letter to the Editor 8-17-2007

SW Journal: Parks Notebook —beach safety, fountains, Parade and more….

The following article by Mary O’Regan in the August 13 issue of the
Southwest Journal summarizes topics covered at the August 1 Park Board meeting:

Parks notebook
By Mary O’Regan

Safety on the beach

Swimmers are having difficulty telling the difference between on- and off-duty lifeguards at city lakes. Lake Harriet, for example, doesn’t have a building for lifeguards to use during their breaks. Instead, many of them hang out on the beach and, to some visitors, it looks like they’re slacking off when they’re actually off-duty. Commissioners agreed that the lifeguards should climb off their chairs and wear T-shirts during their breaks to reduce confusion.

Charles tenBensel, a former Boy Scouts aquatics director, expressed concern about a lack of safety patrol on the lakes during the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s Aug. 1 open time. “It makes me uncomfortable,” he said, recalling a day in June when he tried to go sailing and saw several boats struggling with the strong wind and no one around to help.

Although a safety patrol team was phased out of the Park Board’s budget, Superintendent Jon Gurban insists they’re taking steps to ensure safety on the lakes. In an Aug. 1 letter to the commissioners, he wrote that monitoring the lakes is a collaborative effort between lifeguards, police officers, fire fighters and Hennepin County Water Patrol. “Providing a water patrol is not a traditional park agency responsibility,” he wrote. “It was a luxury to have it when we did.”

Parade Stadium gets irrigation system

The Park Board approved the addition of an irrigation system to maintain the turf at Parade Stadium. The system adds $29,211 to the project, for a total of $1,292,173, which is still within the allotted budget.

At the Aug. 15 board meeting, commissioners will hold a public study session, detailing plans for the stadium.

Broken fountain in Lyndale Park

The Heffelfinger Fountain in Lyndale Park Rose Garden is clogged, broken and about to crack. The bronze statue is the oldest sculpture in the Minneapolis park system, originating from 19th century Italy. Pieces of the fountain have gone missing and cracks have been patched since its installation in 1947. The sculpture is unable to dispense water because its upper pipes are full of a thick, tar-like substance and removal will likely crack the marble basin.

According to Mary Maguire Lerman, environmental coordinator of Horticulture Programs for the Park Board, the fountain needs complete restoration. A bronze restorer recommended by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts estimated the total cost at $100,000, which includes removing the fountain, cleaning off corrosion, applying patina, replacing missing pieces and creating a new marble basin.

At the Park Board’s Aug. 1 study session, Maguire Lerman asked commissioners to consider incorporating the fountain restoration project into the 2008 budget.

“It would be ideal to have the restoration occur during the winter months of 2008,” she wrote in a statement passed out to the board, “so that it could be returned to its place of honor at the top of the rose garden during next season’s centennial.”

Lobbyist review

Park Board commissioners filled out a form evaluating their lobbyist team, Rice, Michels & Walther, LLP. Altogether, there were 56 tallies in the “outstanding” field, 22 tallies in “acceptable” and two tallies in “unacceptable.” The “unacceptable” tallies fell under “knowledge of relevant laws affecting client” and “quality of research and political analysis.”

Board members listed several comments about the lobbyists, most notably that there aren’t any Republicans on the team. “Do we need a Republican lobbyist?” one commissioner wrote anonymously.

“Just because democrats are in charge of the House [of Representatives], doesn’t mean they will be in the future,” Commissioner-at-Large Annie Young said when the matter opened for discussion. “I think it’s to our advantage to have representation from all of the
parties.”

“The idea that somehow we’re only going to have lobbyists that are one persuasion or the other is pretty short-sighted,” added Commissioner Carol Kummer, who represents Southeast.

The board passed a motion to issue a vote of confidence in their legal team.

Your name on a park bench

In an effort to raise funds to spruce up the Lake Harriet Bandshell, People for Parks, a nonprofit group, is offering personalized benches or pavers.

For $150–$250 individuals or companies can purchase engraved pavers to replace the crushed limestone that faces the bandshell. Or, for $2,000-2,500 park supporters can adopt benches with or without engraving to be installed in the audience area. The benches will replace the old worn seats currently at the Bandshell.

For more information, e-mail info@peopleforparks.net.

Link to the Southwest Journal

MPRB Regular Board Meeting

Details for
Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board Commissisoners Meeting

Commissioners Walt Dziedzic, Bob Fine, Carol Kummer, Mary Merrill Anderson, Tracy Nordstrom, Tom Nordyke, Scott Vreeland, Annie Young and President Olson.

Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board meetings are broadcast live from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. on channels 14 and 79 in the Minneapolis Time Warner cable network.

Rebroadcasts of current meetings can be seen on Channel 14 only on Thursday at 2 p.m., Saturday at 1 p.m. and Sunday at 6 p.m. Rebroadcast of the previous meeting can be seen on Channel 14 on Wednesdays at 2 p.m. and Thursdays at 9 a.m.

Date: 9/19/2007
Time: 5:00-8:00 p.m.
Webcast: Tune in to see the meeting live online.
The Government Meeting Channel 79 is available on the web 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Archived copies of this meeting will also be available for 60 days.
Type: Regular
Location: MPRB Administrative Offices, Board Room Suite 255
Address: 2117 West River Road

Park Board Agenda

MPRB Regular Board Meeting

Details for
Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board Commissisoners Meeting

Commissioners Walt Dziedzic, Bob Fine, Carol Kummer, Mary Merrill Anderson, Tracy Nordstrom, Tom Nordyke, Scott Vreeland, Annie Young and President Olson.

Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board meetings are broadcast live from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. on channels 14 and 79 in the Minneapolis Time Warner cable network.

Rebroadcasts of current meetings can be seen on Channel 14 only on Thursday at 2 p.m., Saturday at 1 p.m. and Sunday at 6 p.m. Rebroadcast of the previous meeting can be seen on Channel 14 on Wednesdays at 2 p.m. and Thursdays at 9 a.m.

Date: 9/5/2007
Time: 5:00-8:00 p.m.
Webcast: Tune in to see the meeting live online.
The Government Meeting Channel 79 is available on the web 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Archived copies of this meeting will also be available for 60 days.
Type: Regular
Location: MPRB Administrative Offices, Board Room Suite 255
Address: 2117 West River Road

Park Board Agenda