The Minneapolis Park Board has a deal, or had a deal, to let DeLaSalle High School build a football stadium on park property. This is supposed to be a public-private partnership. Three questions:
First: What kind of public-private partnership has a groundbreaking ceremony that’s closed to the public? Last month several park commissioners and staff attended just such an invitation-only, private event at DeLaSalle. A private groundbreaking doesn’t bode well for public access to the project.
Second: What kind of partnership is it when the private developer won’t give the public partner its financing plan? Your deal from March 2006 says QUOTE:
“DeLaSalle shall provide the MPRB with a financing plan for the construction of the athletic fields and detailed commitments to complete the project prior to the commencement of construction of the project.” (RUA 2.4 “Conditions Precedent”, March 1, 2006)
A year and a half later DeLaSalle emails you QUOTE:
“A copy of the written commitment for funding is available for confidential viewing. We suggest review by a single designee of the board. … This written commitment can be inspected at our offices upon request by the Minneapolis Park Board.” (Br. Michael Collins to Jon Olson, Sept. 4, 2007)
So instead of providing a financing plan as the deal requires, DeLaSalle wants the park board to send an emissary to peek at a confidential letter? Again, not much of a partnership.
Third: What kind of partner tries to change the deal so if you, the park board, exercise your right not to renew the agreement at the end of its term, the public has to pay the private developer every cent ever spent on the project? That’s what DeLaSalle’s lawyer sent your lawyer last month. That’s not a partnership, that’s Rumplestiltskin demanding your first born child.
The deal has to be re-done because park staff decided not to run it by the state finance department, although they knew they were supposed to. In February, 2006 Park Board Attorney Brian Rice told the park board: QUOTE “You probably will need the state Department of Finance to give a release.” And in January 2005, park planning director Director Judd Rietkerk wrote a memo saying the state would QUOTE “have issues” with the deal. That’s from this week’s Southwest Journal newspaper. In the same article, State Assistant Commissioner of Finance Peter Sausen says the current agreement doesn’t meet the necessary requirements. QUOTE “They have to make changes to the reciprocal use agreement and come back to us which they have not done yet.”.
After all this, Park Board General Manager Don Siggelkow told the newspaper, “We don’t necessarily agree that they [the state] do have a purview over it, but they feel it’s important, so we will conform to that.” According to the article, park staff plan to get the state’s OK on a changed deal, then bring it to the park board at your next meeting on November 28. If so, tonight is the last chance for public comment on new terms for this public-private partnership, but no new deal has been made public yet.
Your most important partnership is with your public partner, the citizens of Minneapolis. You should not take action on a new, radically different deal from private developer DeLaSalle without a public hearing. Thank you.
Printed with permission of the author, Chris Stellar