Monthly Archives: September 2007

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE PARK BOARD'S 9/19/07 MEETING

The meeting was a long one–five hours (from 4 pm to approximately 9 pm)with a number of significant issues on the night’s agenda.

CITIZEN PARTICIPATION ORDINANCE. The Planning Committee discussed the proposed changes to the existing Citizen Participation Ordinance. The proposed revisions will limit citizen involvement to MAJOR new park facilities or SIGNIFICANT redevelopment of existing park facilities, and only AFTER the projects have been proposed and FUNDED. Appeal times are shortened and there will be fees for citizen appeals.

So, essentially, all meaningful citizen participation is being discouraged and/or eliminated. What this means is that in the not-so-distant future Superintendent Gurban will not have to bother with convening a Citizens Advisory Committee for his new road at Parade

What I have observed is that when Park BoardÂ’s administrative staff does not want to be bothered by a Park Board law or policy, the pesky law or policy is either revised or eliminatedÂ-and not in the best interest of transparent or accountable government.

Superintendent Gurban has publicly stated that citizen participation is ”cumbersome.” So it should be no surprise that the Citizen Participation Ordinance is being gutted. After all, the democratic process is a cumbersome one.

I urge everyone who believes in a fair and open government process to contact his/her Park Board representatives and tell them that we want MORE transparency, MORE accountability and MORE citizen participationÂ-not less.

PARADE STUDY SESSION. This was scheduled at the request of several of the commissioners, including Tracy Nordstrom, Walt Dziedzic and Annie Young, who thought that the commissioners needed clarification from the staff about exactly what was happening on the Parade site. Park Watch appreciated their efforts to schedule this meeting.

Because Superintendent Gurban had been meeting with various groups about his “vision” or plan for a $50,000,000 sports complex on the Parade site, there was a public perception that this “vision” or plan had been approved–or
would be approved–by the commissioners without any public process. The
superintendent and administrative staff had even gone so far as to commence fund-raising for the Parade project with the support of The Foundation for Minneapolis Parks and a jointly sponsored brochure.

Park Watch knew that there had been no Board direction or approval for this “vision;” but it certainly appeared from the many documents that Park Watch had acquired through the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act (MGDPA) and from the administrative staff’s fund-raising activities, that the superintendent and the administrative staff were seriously advancing this larger project without bringing it to the Planning Committee or involving any meaningful citizen participation.

It was for these reasons that a Citizens’ Petition for an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) was circulated and submitted to the Park Board.

As Mary Merrill Anderson said during the discussion, “We have confusion.”

The Parade study session served to both clarify an issue that Commissioner Scott Vreeland said “had gotten out of control;” and to remind staff that it is the Board’s–not the staff’s–responsibility to control the agenda.

A number of concerned citizens, from the Lowry Hill neighborhood and elsewhere in the city, interested in this issue were at the meeting.

Commissioner Vreeland, who was visibly disturbed, chastised the staff for its “poor communication,” for allowing the Parade project to get “out of control” and for “raising money for an unapproved project.”

He expressed his frustration that the “Board has to answer questions that staff have created.”

Commissioner Tom Nordyke wanted to know more about the road at Parade that had been mentioned previously by staff–but never in detail. Because we had reviewed documents about Parade that Park Watch had obtained through the MGDPA, it was obvious to Park Watch that the new road was intended to service the event center. Therefore, it–the road–was an important component of Superintendent Gurban’s “vision.”

Park Watch has observed that the administrative staff had carefully framed this new $290,000 road as a “road realignment” or a “maintenance project” in an effort to avoid calling it a new road so that it could be built without commissioners’ approval or citizen participation.

When questioned by Commissioner Tom Nordyke, Judd Rietkerk, director of planning and project management, attempted to tap dance around the issue; but eventually he was nailed by Commissioner Nordyke’s direct and persistent questioning. He finally had to admit that there were, indeed, plans for a NEW road at Parade. The Parade study session, and Commissioner NordykeÂ’s astute questioning of staff, was successful in clarifying the intentional confusion about the road.

The Board concluded the study session with the decision that there would be no further development of Parade during 2007 and 2008 and no further development without Board direction. In other words, no event center, no field house, no new road through 2008.

The only Board approved project at Parade is the artificial turf field with lighting, scoreboard, sound system, a grandstand, seating for 1,500, fencing, press box platform and irrigation system. So far, only the field, the lighting and the irrigation system have been installed.

Later on in the evening, the Board voted to deny the CitizensÂ’ Petition for an EAW.

DELASALLE. The Board voted to approve the DeLaSalle land exchange, a complex land deal that gives DeLaSalle the right to use valuable parkland to build an athletic facility that the public will not be able to use as originally negotiated.

Essentially, this land deal is a shell game designed to help DeLaSalle evade its agreement to pay fair value for the parkland which was originally acquired through eminent domain at a cost of $1,000,000 and which was recently appraised at $2,000,000. With this vote, DeLaSalle has gained its field at taxpayersÂ’ expense and without having to provide any benefit to the public as originally intended.

Commissioner Vreeland made a valiant attempt, without success, to get DeLaSalle to honor its contractual agreement with the Park Board to compensate the Park Board for the cost of replacement land.

And Commissioner Young mentioned her concerns about the disregard of separation of church and state.

Then Commissioner Nordyke made a motion requiring DeLaSalle to post a bond before beginning any construction. He pointed out the need for the Park Board to be protected if DeLaSalle decides to disturb parkland before the legal challenges (now numbering three) have been resolved. DeLaSalle would be responsible for undoing any construction if any of the legal challenges are successful. Without a bond, the Park Board would be responsible for such costs.

Commissioner Dziedzic agreed that the Park Board needed to be protected and seconded the motion for the $250,000 bond. It passed 6 to 3. Surprisingly, Commissioner Bob Fine, a real estate attorney, voted against the bond requirement. Also voting against it were Commissioners Carol Kummer and Mary Merrill Anderson.

THE 201 BUILDING. I will wrap this topic up at a later date.

Arlene Fried
Co-founder of Park Watch

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.

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: 10/17/2007
Time: 5:00-8:00 p.m.
Type: Regular
Location: MPRB Administrative Offices, Board Room Suite 255
Address: 2117 West River Road, Minneapolis

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.

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: 10/3/2007
Time: 5:00-8:00 p.m.
Type: Regular
Location: MPRB Administrative Offices, Board Room Suite 255
Address: 2117 West River Road, Minneapolis

Park Board Agenda

Comments on Parade Study Session at the MPRB Committee of the Whole

From the Downtown Journal

A ton of dreams
By Michael Metzger
September 19th, 2007

If you want some fun, read the report on the big doings at the Parade Stadium by Judd Rietkerk, Director of Planning and Project Management for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

Here’s the very opening of the report, under the heading “Facts and Fiction”:
“As staff listens to the air waves, blogs, My Face, issues list, e-mails and rumor mills, there are some recurring themes related to the Parade project that need to be addressed.”

Don’t you love the way the in-tune Rietkerk mixes up My Space and Facebook, creating “My Face”?

He then outlines the first of these themes troubling folks around town: “There is a secret plan to implement The Parade project without the Board’s approval and neighborhood review.

Calmly, Rietkerk proceeds to reassure those worried about the existence of a clandestine plan:

“There is no secret plan! There is no secret plan!”

Apparently, there’s no secret plan regarding the Parade Stadium. There is, however, a public plan to ram major changes at the stadium down the public’s gullet without any input from the taxpayers footing the enormous bills. There’s a difference here, and Reitkerk is correct to point it out.

His report continues by addressing another issue worrisome to members of the public: “There should have been a CAC process.”

A “CAC” is a Citizens Advisory Committee; residents giving politicians their input.

“The Board has many examples of park renovations that did not include a CAC process.
Prime examples are the Twins’ field rehabilitation projects that have renovated fields all over
the system. Pearl, Stewart, Van Cleve, Shingle Creek, Harrison and King Field are examples
of field renovations that did not have a CAC process. The Timberwolves’ basket ball courts
at East Phillips, North Commons, Riverside Park are more examples. The $400,000
Kenwood Tennis Court reconstruction did not have a CAC.”

Excellent point again from Rietkerk. Here’s some news, folks: The public isn’t going to be informed of every little thing the Park Board does. Superintendent Jon Gurban already told Lowry Hill how his changes to the stadium are going to affect their neighborhood. Did he stutter when explaining how his dream is going to unfold? No. He also didn’t stutter when he made it clear that you can expect more of the same on future projects when he said, “I got a ton of dreams.”

Drop ’em on us whenever you’re ready, sir.

 

You can read more of the Rietkerk report here. So far, no parades are planned to honor the release of the missive.

A HEADS UP FOR THE SEPTEMBER 19, 2007, PARK BOARD MEETING

Some selected highlights:

1. 4:00 P.M. STUDY SESSION. (Study sessions are not televised.) The Comprehensive Plan will be discussed and also, at 4:15, the Parade Stadium Conceptual Plan.

In the study session materials being provided to the Commissioners, Park Board staff claim that “There is no secret plan” for Parade; but, in fact, it WAS a secret plan until March of last year when Park Watch used the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act to request copies of the colored renderings of Superintendent Gurban’s plans for the $50,000,000 Parade athletic complex that the Commissioners or the public had not seen. See Judd Rietkerk’s memo
dated March 24, 2006, which explains the Data Practices request to the Commissioners.

At a study session on August 2, 2006, Superintendent Gurban displayed publicly for the FIRST TIME the colored renderings of his Parade “Vision” to the Commissioners and the public. (Again, this study session was not televised, but Park Watch was present.)

It is interesting to note that the amount billed by SSV for these Parade complex renderings was $22,000 with $5,000 being paid for by Mintahoe, a Park Board tenant. (Again, this information was obtained through documents acquired through a Data Practices request.)

In reviewing all of the memos and other documents gathered for the Commissioners by staff for the September 19 study session, I was disappointed to discover that staff did not provide a summary statement that clearly explains what really is happening at Parade. There’s a lot of information, but no coherent overview. So the study session fails to achieve the goal it was directed to accomplish. I also was disappointed to note errors in the documents provided.

2. 5:00 P.M. REGULAR MEETING

PARADE. The Board will be voting on whether to deny the citizens’ petition for an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) for Parade.

DELASALLE. Also on the agenda is the vote on the DeLaSalle land exchange, a complex land deal that will allow DeLaSalle to use valuable public parkland to build an athletic facility that the public will not be able to use as originally intended. Essentially, this land deal is a shell game designed to help DeLaSalle evade its agreement to pay fair value for the parkland that has been appraised at $2,000,000. If the Park Board votes to approve
this deal as it has been crafted, DeLaSalle gains its field at taxpayers’ expense and without providing any benefit to the public. So it’s a very good deal for DeLaSalle and a very bad deal for the taxpayers who own the land.

3. 7:00 P.M. PLANNING COMMITTEE. The Planning Committee is starting the process to gut the Citizen Participation ordinance. The changes proposed pretty much eliminate meaningful citizen participation. But then, of course, with Superintendent Gurban leading the Park Board, what can we expect? He’s failed to implement a Citizen Advisory Committee for the $1,240,000 artificial turf Parade athletic field; and when he’s been challenged by the public, his staff has to defend him with ridiculous
excuses.

Submitted by Arlene Fried
Co-founder of Park Watch

Grand Rounds Missing Link Open Houses

From the MPRB Website

Proposed Missing Link Parkway Routes Shared at Open Houses
Presentation, Photos and Drawings Presented to Public

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board invites the public to attend open houses being held to discuss proposed routes for the Grand Rounds-Missing Link parkway in Northeast and Southeast Minneapolis.
Open houses are being held 6:30-8:30 p.m., with a presentation from 7-7:30 p.m., on Tuesday, September 18, at Northeast Recreation Center, 1615 Pierce St. NE, Minneapolis, and on Thursday, October 18, at Windom Recreation Center, located within Pillsbury School at 2251 Hayes St. NE, Minneapolis. Both open houses include photos and drawings of the proposed route alternatives, a presentation about the project and a question and answer session. Language accommodations are available upon request; call 612-230-6472 at least 48 hours in advance.

Missing Link Open House Brochure

Project Information

The nationally-recognized Grand Rounds is the only designated urban Scenic Byway in the United States. Over a century old and attracting nearly 15 million visits each year, the Grand Rounds encompasses more than 50 miles of parkway, bicycle and pedestrian trails around the City of Minneapolis. The Missing Link is the gap in the Grand Rounds in the area north of I-94 and east of the Mississippi River.

To launch the project, the MPRB has begun a study phase that includes community input and technical review to select a route to complete the Grand Rounds loop. Among other criteria, proposed routes and designs will be evaluated on neighborhood impact and their connectivity to existing and proposed bicycle and pedestrian routes, park and open spaces, and transportation corridors. The chosen location will result in the development of a Master Plan for the completion of the Missing Link.

A Citizen Advisory Committee and a Technical Advisory Committee, both integral parts of the planning process, were appointed in June and July 2007. The Citizen Advisory Committee is composed of community residents and business owners appointed by Park Board Commissioners, neighborhood organizations, business groups, Hennepin County Commissioners, City Council Members and Mayor Rybak. As part of the planning process, advisory committee members will review and comment on the location and design of the parkway extension, act as liaisons with their respective communities, sponsor open houses, and provide recommendations to the Park Board. Similarly, Technical Advisory Committee members from a number of agencies in the immediate area will make recommendations to the Park Board regarding the plan.

The Missing Link study is scheduled to be completed in spring 2008 and implementation will begin as funds become available.

CONTACT: Dawn Sommers
Public Information and Marketing Manager
612-230-6407
dsommers@minneapolisparks.org
Janell Wojtowicz
Communication Specialist
612-230-6414
jwojtowicz@minneapolisparks.org

Grand Rounds Missing Link Open Houses

From the MPRB Website

Proposed Missing Link Parkway Routes Shared at Open Houses
Presentation, Photos and Drawings Presented to Public

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board invites the public to attend open houses being held to discuss proposed routes for the Grand Rounds-Missing Link parkway in Northeast and Southeast Minneapolis.
Open houses are being held 6:30-8:30 p.m., with a presentation from 7-7:30 p.m., on Tuesday, September 18, at Northeast Recreation Center, 1615 Pierce St. NE, Minneapolis, and on Thursday, October 18, at Windom Recreation Center, located within Pillsbury School at 2251 Hayes St. NE, Minneapolis. Both open houses include photos and drawings of the proposed route alternatives, a presentation about the project and a question and answer session. Language accommodations are available upon request; call 612-230-6472 at least 48 hours in advance.

Missing Link Open House Brochure

Project Information

The nationally-recognized Grand Rounds is the only designated urban Scenic Byway in the United States. Over a century old and attracting nearly 15 million visits each year, the Grand Rounds encompasses more than 50 miles of parkway, bicycle and pedestrian trails around the City of Minneapolis. The Missing Link is the gap in the Grand Rounds in the area north of I-94 and east of the Mississippi River.

To launch the project, the MPRB has begun a study phase that includes community input and technical review to select a route to complete the Grand Rounds loop. Among other criteria, proposed routes and designs will be evaluated on neighborhood impact and their connectivity to existing and proposed bicycle and pedestrian routes, park and open spaces, and transportation corridors. The chosen location will result in the development of a Master Plan for the completion of the Missing Link.

A Citizen Advisory Committee and a Technical Advisory Committee, both integral parts of the planning process, were appointed in June and July 2007. The Citizen Advisory Committee is composed of community residents and business owners appointed by Park Board Commissioners, neighborhood organizations, business groups, Hennepin County Commissioners, City Council Members and Mayor Rybak. As part of the planning process, advisory committee members will review and comment on the location and design of the parkway extension, act as liaisons with their respective communities, sponsor open houses, and provide recommendations to the Park Board. Similarly, Technical Advisory Committee members from a number of agencies in the immediate area will make recommendations to the Park Board regarding the plan.

The Missing Link study is scheduled to be completed in spring 2008 and implementation will begin as funds become available.

CONTACT: Dawn Sommers
Public Information and Marketing Manager
612-230-6407
dsommers@minneapolisparks.org
Janell Wojtowicz
Communication Specialist
612-230-6414
jwojtowicz@minneapolisparks.org