Monthly Archives: January 2008

MPRB Amends DeLaSalle RUA, the taxpayers on the line for millions and land, too

Park Board’s Planning Committee approves amended agreement with DeLaSalle that has a poison pill obligating the Park Board to build DeLaSalle a new stadium if it later decides not to renew the lease.

With a clause like this, it makes one wonder who exactly is protecting the interests of the taxpaying public with this deal?

From the Downtown Journal website

Amendments to DeLaSalle agreement approved
UPDATED January 24, 2008, 5:08pm

By Mary O’Regan

On Wednesday evening, the Planning Committee of the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board (MPRB) approved amendments from Tom Hanson, the state Finance Commissioner, to a Reciprocal Use Agreement (RUA) between the Park Board and DeLaSalle High School for a shared athletic field to be constructed next to the school, which is on Nicollet Island.

One amendment would change the length of the lease from two 30-year terms and one 10-year term to three 20-year terms and one 10-year term. If the Park Board were to decide against renewing the lease, another amendment would obligate it to build a new athletic field for DeLaSalle adjacent to the school.  And if DeLaSalle were to decide against renewing the lease, it would have to remove the field completely.

MPRB attorney Brian Rice said the objective in negotiating the amendments was to maintain the integrity of the board’s original approval of the RUA from last fall.

Southeast Commissioner Scott Vreeland likened the amendments to giving the Park Board a “poison pill,” which would leave the organization helpless to get out of the deal.

“The liability of the Park Board is greatly increased by this amendment,” he said. “It’s politically unpalatable.”

Northeast Commissioner Walt Dziedzic noted that the Park Board is bound by a 1983 Nicollet Island Agreement to build an athletic field on the land. The fact that an outside benefactor is willing to come in and pay for it gets the Park Board off the hook, he said, adding that if they ended the agreement early, they’d be forced to build DeLaSalle a field anyway, and this way the usage of the field is shared.

Rep. Phyllis Khan (DFL) 59B, who lives on Nicollet Island, wrote a letter to Hanson questioning his approval of the amendments. She cited a statement from Michael Norton, outside counsel to the Park Board, that said, “DeLaSalle is not a party to the 1983 agreement and ‘has no direct contractual rights under the agreement.'” She also said there is technically no adjacent land where a new field could be built should the Park Board end the lease early.

The amendments are expected to go before the full board at its next meeting Feb. 6.

January 9th 2008 Open Time

The following recommendations were presented to the Park Board Commissioners by Liz Wielinski during Open Time at the first 2008 Park Board meeting on January 9th.

President Nordkye and Commissioners.

Thank you for this opportunity to address this newly reorganized board. As you start your endeavors for 2008, I and the other members of Park Watch would like to offer some suggestions on how this board in its new alignment could exemplify the attributes of Transparency, Accountability and Professionalism.

During the upcoming year the board should receive quarterly financial reports through the Administration and Finance committee. The budget schedule for the upcoming year should also be set early, and to avoid many of the conflicts with your user groups such as the issues with the non-profits and the off-road cyclists this past year, we recommend a budget advisory committee of interested parties.

An expectation of more detailed staff reports for projects should also be conveyed. The amount of information you receive regarding upcoming projects should include a summary of how the project fits into the newly approved comprehensive plan, the pros and cons weighed to arrive at the staff recommendation, and an accounting of the other organizations outside of the MPRB that will have an impact on the project. This could include the city planning or permits departments, the HPC, the Met Council or even the State Finance Commissioner. You need to be thoroughly briefed on all aspects of a project before you can cast an informed vote.

Where budget initiatives or projects include new business venture partnerships a detailed financial analysis should be done. There should also be in place an ongoing review of all partnerships to see if their performance warrants a continued relationship and exit strategies should the partnership be either underperforming or actually detrimental to the MPRB. Again as with the non- enterprise projects these partnerships should also demonstrate their integration into your comprehensive plan.

We would also suggest that a fair accounting of staff time be kept for these projects that are often outside the scope of regular MPRB business such as DeLaSalle and Crown Hydro.

This newly reorganized board shows much promise and a more transparent and accountable relationship with an informed electorate will help you preserve your much needed independence. Thank you again President Nordyke and Commissioners for providing this opportunity to address you.

Significant Questions Regarding DeLaSalle/Park Board Agreement Remain Unanswered

This was submitted to the Minneapolis Issues Forum on 01/22/08 by Liz Wielinski and Shawne FitzGerald.

On Wednesday, the MPRB Commissioners are being asked to amend the Reciprocal Use Agreement (RUA) with DeLaSalle High School – including these key provisions:

“13.2.7 Termination of the Governmental Program of youth soccer and football or change in the Governmental Program that no longer allows the Public Entity [MPRB] to continue to own or operate the Facility for the Governmental Program pursuant to Minnesota Statutes section 471.16.”

NOT an attorney so here’s a few questions… Does this mean that the MPRB will own and operate the facility? Is DeLaSalle building the MPRB a football field on their land and the park board’s and then giving it to the MPRB? Does “ownership” change hands hourly depending on who is
doing the scheduling? Are youth soccer and football the ONLY things that the MPRB can program on the field?

“13.4 Termination of Governmental Program or Nonrenewal. If this Agreement terminates automatically pursuant to Section 13.2.7, or if the MPRB elects in its sole discretion to not renew this Agreement after DeLaSalle requests a renewal pursuant to Section 3.2, then the MPRB shall construct on MPRB property adjacent to the DeLaSalle Property an Athletic Facility, for use by DeLaSalle, in satisfaction of the May 19, 1983 Nicollet Island Agreement….”

Confused again.. If the MPRB decides not to renew the agreement in 20 years ( say the lightrail goes through the northern end zone and the MPRB has no choice but to turn over the land or they quit programming youth soccer/ football) does this mean that the citizens of Minneapolis HAVE to build them another field someplace on the Island? Where exactly? Tear down the INN? Tear down the Pavillion? Build it where the parking lots are? Where else will one fit and is property that listed in the agreement? Or does the “definition” of adjacent change to include sites
off island like BF Nelson or Boom Island if there isn’t anywhere on the island that is the correct dimensions?

Also, the term of the initial use agreement is reduced from 30 to 20 years with three renewal terms of 20-20-10 years for a total of 70 years. The RUA amendments are listed as unfinished business so it looks like this will not go back to the CAC, to the neighborhood groups, or to
an MPRB Committee. Public notice will be posted on the MPRB website,, tomorrow.

I look forward to these questions and many others being hashed out at the MPRB meeting on Wednesday. Who exactly is protecting the interests of the taxpaying public with this deal?

Liz Wielinski
Columbia Park


5:00 P.M. REGULAR MEETING. There will be a vote on the approval of the REVISED
Reciprocal Use Agreement between the Park Board and DeLaSalle High School

The original Reciprocal Use Agreement voted for by the Park Board in March of 2006
was not approved by the State Finance Commissioner as required and had to be
renegotiated and rewritten before he would approve it.

So during the past 22 months, there has been no effective legal agreement between
the Park Board and DeLaSalle.

Since August of 2007, the Park Board and DeLaSalle have been attempting to
renegotiate certain terms of their agreement so that it could be approved by the
State Finance Commissioner. Apparently the State Finance Commissioner has agreed to
approve the latest revision.

It is this revised Reciprocal Use Agreement between the Park Board and DeLaSalle
that will come before the Board for its approval on Wednesday.

Also on the agenda for discussion are East Phillips Park and The Board of Estimate
and Taxation.

The meeting will be broadcast live on cable channel 14 beginning at 5:00 P.M.

Submitted by Arlene Fried
Co-founder of Park Watch

Despite lawsuit victory, hurdles remain for DeLaSalle athletic field

From The Bridge

By Liz Riggs (January 15, 2008)

Despite a recent groundbreaking and favorable court ruling for DeLaSalle High School, several hurdles still remain in the school’s push to get an athletic field on Nicollet Island.

The Nov. 20 Minnesota Court of Appeals ruling upheld the Minneapolis City Council’s decision to approve the athletic field, which would be built partially on land now owned by the Minneapolis Park and recreation Board (MPRB). In October, even with the lawsuit pending, DeLaSalle held a private groundbreaking and celebrated the donation of $4 million for the cost of the field by DeLaSalle alum Philip “Skip” Maas.

In a release condemning the Nov. 20 decision, Friends of the Riverfront noted two other pending lawsuits, which the opposition group has filed at the state Court of Appeals with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota.

One suit challenges the city’s approval of the project on the grounds that it doesn’t conform with the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act, which states that developers must demonstrate that no reasonable alternatives exist before altering natural or historic resources. The case could be decided in early 2008, states the Friends of the Riverfront release.

In a second suit, Friends of the Riverfront contends that a Metropolitan Council decision to release the restrictive use agreement on the 1.48 acre Nicollet Island site to allow uses beyond regional park purposes “without replacing it with equal value.” Friends of the Riverfront further asserts that the Metropolitan Council’s decision lacked transparency and public input.

Bonnie Kollodge, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Council, said in an e-mail, “Briefs have not yet been filed, and the Court of Appeals has not yet scheduled oral arguments. The Council objective is to work cooperatively with the regional park implementing agencies in creating and maintaining the region’s excellent parks system. We believe the exchange of restrictive covenants that occurred under the agreement with the Minneapolis Parks Board accomplishes that objective.”

Meanwhile, the MPRB still needs to review its reciprocal-use agreement with DeLaSalle on the MPRB-owned land. Dawn Sommers, the public information manager for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board said a plan to alter the agreement was not brought before the Park Board at its last meeting, and that the two parties are still negotiating.

Representatives from DeLaSalle did not return phone calls regarding the status of the project.

last revised: January 15, 2008

No ‘magic key’ yet for Grand Rounds Missing Link route

Open houses on the proposed route alternatives take place this month — Jan. 16 & 17
By Jeremy Stratton (January 11, 2008)

As preliminary planning continues to complete the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway through Southeast Minneapolis, residents and other area stakeholders continue to adamantly oppose any route that would necessitate the removal of homes in the Como neighborhood.

In recent months, Como residents convinced Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) planners to eliminate a route along 18th Avenue Southeast, but another route that would mean the removal of homes, called G-5, remains a possibility.

Residents who oppose the loss of homes have been joined by the Southeast Como Improvement Association (SECIA), the University of Minnesota and Ward 2 Council Member Cam Gordon.

Lila Smith, a Southeast Como resident who has spearheaded the opposition, collected 165 signatures on a petition against removing homes and/or student housing. Smith has also circulated information and long letters with arguments and impassioned pleas from longtime Como residents opposing a parkway that would eliminate homes.

Read the remainder of the article at The Bridge

MPRB Board Meeting

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s (MPRB) regular February Board Meeting will be held at 5 p.m. Wed., Feb. 6, 2008, in the board room at MPRB headquarters, 2117 West River Road, Minneapolis.

Agendas and information related to Park Board business are typically posted at two business days prior to each meeting.

All Board Meetings are broadcast live from 5-9 p.m. on Channel 14 on the Minneapolis Comcast cable network and on the web at The current meeting is rebroadcast on Channel 14 Thursdays at 2 p.m., Saturdays at 1 p.m. and Sundays at 6 p.m. Rebroadcasts of the previous meeting are on Channel 14 on Wednesdays at 2 p.m. and Thursdays at 9 a.m. Webcasts for the recent two months are available for viewing at

Details for
Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board Commissisoners Meeting
Commissioners Walt Dziedzic, Bob Fine, Carol Kummer, Mary Merrill Anderson, Tracy Nordstrom, Jon C. Olson, Scott Vreeland, Annie Young and President Tom Nordyke.
5:00-8:00 p.m.
MPRB Administrative Offices, Board Room Suite 255
2117 West River Road

Park Board Agenda

Minnehaha Park: Banking on the creek

Historic stone walls along the creek in Minnehaha Park, built in the 1930s, are eroding away, and parts have collapsed. But plans are afoot to shore up the walls and the stream banks to keep them accessible.

By LAURIE BLAKE, Star Tribune

Last update: January 3, 2008 – 11:49 PM

A proposed $7.5 million restoration of Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis, aimed at reversing damage from erosion, is set to begin this year along Minnehaha Creek in the valley downstream from Minnehaha Falls.

A key part of the project is to secure state and federal money to renew the historic stone walls that define the creek channel and anchor popular trails near the 53-foot-tall cascade, which is the landmark of the 193-acre park off Hwy. 55 in south Minneapolis.

Victim of too much water

Built in the 1930s by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the walls were weakened by high-water erosion during a record 4-inch downpour in October 2005.

Since then, one 30-foot chunk of a wall has lain collapsed in the creekbed. Officials say the walls still standing defy gravity and could go in the next flood.

Read the entire article here Star Tribune


This posting of the December 5 meeting was delayed due to unforeseen circumstances.

The December 5 meeting was a marathon meeting lasting about five hours. It also was a meeting marred by a startling verbal attack on citizens by Park Board President Jon Olson. Here are the highlights:

CROWN HYDRO. The Park Board’s Director of Planning and Project Management Judd Rietkirk submitted a report to the Planning Committee requesting committee approval for the Crown Hydro power plant project. The report included a time line which indicated that “Land Lease Negotiations” would be initiated March of ’08 and the project would have Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approval in May or June of ’09.

All associated costs for advancing the project ($250,000) were to be reimbursed by Crown Hydro. It was estimated that staff time to advance the project would be 500 hours. The report included the superintendent’s recommendation for approval of the controversial project. The committee voted three to two in favor of the motion to approve the project, which then was scheduled to go to the full Board to be voted on at the December 19 meeting.

Those voting to approve the Crown Hydro project and the leasing of park land in the St. Anthony Falls Historic District for the establishment of a power plant which would be owned and operated by a private, for-profit company were Commissioners Bob Fine, Carol Kummer and Tracy Nordstrom. Voting against the project and the leasing of park land for a privately owned, for-profit power plant were Commissioners Walt Dziedzic and Annie Young.

One of the many concerns about Crown Hydro has been that the additional diversion of water from St. Anthony Falls would result in a diminished flow over the Falls; under certain circumstances there could be no or very little water available to the Falls, which are the focal point of the St. Anthony Falls Historic District and a major tourist attraction.

THE 2008 BUDGET. There was a public meeting on the Superintendent’s 2008 Budget, which packed the boardroom with unhappy and vocal representatives of the many non-profit and for-profit organizations that use the MPRB’s parks and parkways for fund raising activities. They had come to express dismay, disappointment and outrage about the unexpected and substantial fee increases.

For example, the fees for the Minnesota AIDS Walk were increased from $9,613 in 2007 to $23,105 for 2008. Fees for the Pride Festival were increased from $10,487 in 2007 to $58,000 for 2008–an increase of 500 percent.

Shawn Jepson, a mountain biker who had helped build the biking trail at Theodore Wirth Park, expressed his opinion, “Seems like money has been misallocated and now you are trying to take it from us.”

As a result of the citizen input, the commissioners amended the budget to direct staff to renegotiate the increases with the non-profits.

Another cost-cutting measure by the superintendent was the proposal to close the Powderhorn ice skating rink. This proposal was met with vocal and well organized citizen opposition. In response to the public testimony, the Board amended the budget to close five other rinks but Powderhorn will remain open. This was an example of the effectiveness of a collective citizen voice.

At one point in the meeting, Park Board President Jon Olson blamed the mayor for the Park Board’s budget woes. And later on it was Park Watch who became the scapegoat for the Park Board’s budget deficit and the reason why the ice rinks were closing.

This attack by Park Board President Jon Olson directed at citizens who use the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act (MGDPA) to obtain government information was highly inappropriate for an elected government official. We live in a democracy and it is every citizen’s right to access government information.

In the recent issue of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) National Newsletter, there is an article about the importance of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero is quoted as saying “I like to think of the Freedom of Information Act as democracy’s x-ray, because it allows Americans to see what’s really going on inside their government.”

The Minnesota Government Data Practices Act is the tool we use to gain access to local government information here in Minnesota. During the past two years, Park Watch–and other members of the public–has been using this tool to access information about the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

Complying with the Data Practices Act is not discretionary as Board President Olson and Commissioner Carol Kummer would like to believe (and like the public to believe also), but mandatory. Governmental units are required by law to have a process for responding to citizen requests for information; and this process needs to be built into government budgets. Furthermore, it is not the purview of any official to cast judgment on those requesting information.

In the ACLU article about bringing “Government Secrecy Into the Sunlight,” the article has an important reminder for the reader. It is “that people need to understand their rights to access government files and information.”

It is astonishingly unprofessional for elected officials to use a public meeting as a forum to ridicule, humiliate, discredit and embarrass citizens who want to exercise their rights to access government information and who believe that “openness in government can assist the public in making the informed choices necessary in a functioning democracy.”

Commissioners Olson and Kummer owe all of us apologies.

Submitted on January 9, 2008
by Arlene Fried
Co-founder of Park Watch