Monthly Archives: March 2008

SOUTHWEST JOURNAL'S PARKS UPDATE

The following Parks Update is from the March 24, 2008, issue of the Southwest Journal. It is Mary O’Regan’s last Park Board article; she is no longer with the Southwest Journal. We will miss her.

Parks update
Mary O’Regan

Bringing back swim docks

During open time at the March 5 Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board (MPRB) meeting, Fulton Neighborhood Association member Steve Young asked commissioners to consider bringing back docks to the city’s lakes.

All of the rules imposed at the lakes have essentially turned them into wading pools, Young said, adding that his family goes instead to Shady Oak Beach in Minnetonka, which charges a fee for beach usage but has more amenities.

Linden Hills resident Brad Bart agreed, saying that when his family visited Lake Calhoun, they weren’t allowed to play with inflatable toys, splash, throw anything or play tag, so they ended up leaving. Bringing back docks would be a reasonable thing, he said.

According to Lakes District Manager Paul Hokeness, the docks were removed in the early ’80s due to the high cost of installing them each year, paying extra lifeguards and safety concerns.

Ninety-five percent of the rescues back then were around the docks, said Hokeness who was once a lifeguard for the MPRB, adding that floating docks proved to be even more hazardous because kids could slip under them.

New sign at Linden Hills Park

Visitors to Linden Hills Park may notice a new sign at the park’s entrance. The Park Board approved the Linden Hills Neighborhood Council’s request to use Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) funds to install the $7,000 sign, which will have a bulletin board design to communicate announcements to the neighborhood.

Golf rates to go up at Minneapolis courses

The Park Board’s Administration and Finance Committee has approved new rates for the 2008 golf season at Minneapolis courses.

The cost of playing 18 holes at Meadowbrook Golf Course off Excelsior Boulevard went up $1 (to $32) and weekday rates will stay the same at $28. An 18-hole game at Wirth Golf Course at 1301 Theodore Wirth Pkwy. also went up $1 for weekend play, making the fee $30, and remained $26 on weekdays. Additionally, the cost of an 18-hole weekend patron card, which gives golfers advance-registration privileges, went up $1, making it $25.

The Park Board also decided to move up the date that fall rates will apply from Columbus Day to the first Monday in October, meaning golfers will have lower rates for two more weeks each season. The rates went up $1, however, bringing the cost to $19 on weekdays and $23 on weekends and holidays.

The price of season passes to Minneapolis golf courses has also increased. A seven-day/full-season pass to any course now costs $1,365 for adults, $1,225 for kids or seniors, and $930 for kids or seniors playing Monday—Friday. Passes for seven-day/full-season usage of a specific course cost $1,025 for adults, $920 for kids and seniors, and $700 for kids and seniors golfing Monday—Friday.

Cart rental fees have also increased. An 18-hold cart now costs $28 and 9-hole carts cost $16. Seniors are eligible for a $2 decrease and during the fall, carts cost $22. At Wirth Par 3 course, carts now cost $12 for nine holes.

Men’s and Women’s league registration has increased to $65 for residents and $70 for nonresidents, which will allow for greater money awards in competitions.

According to a memo from Tim Kuebelbeck, the Park Board’s director of golf, the rate increases will generate $172,250 in additional revenue for the organization. He noted that fees were determined based on rates at comparable facilities in the Twin Cities, ensuring that Minneapolis’ courses will stay competitive. Visit minneapolisparks.org for more information.

Keep signs off the parkways

The Minneapolis Park Police has issued a statement asking residents to refrain from putting signs on park property, including advertisements for garage sales, open houses and community events. Under the city’s ordinance, unapproved signs are considered a public nuisance and will be removed.

Foundation for Minneapolis Parks’ board of trustees

The Foundation for Minneapolis Parks, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving public parks in the city, elected three new members to its board of trustees:

Steve Dowling currently works as the director of marketing operations for Tradition Golf and holds leadership positions in several golf associations.

Wendy Holmes is the vice president of consulting and resource development for Artspace Projects, a local nonprofit real estate developer for the arts, and has worked in the development departments for Minnesota Public Radio, Walker Art Center and
Macalester College.

Patrick Klinger has been the vice president of marketing for the Minnesota Twins since 1999, overseeing advertising and broadcasting projects.

The new members will serve three-year terms alongside five other members, including MPRB President Tom Nordyke and General Manager Don Siggelkow.

SUNSHINE WEEK

The following statement was presented by Arlene Fried, Co-founder of Park Watch, at
the Park Board meeting on March 19, 2008, during Open Time:

SUNSHINE WEEK AND DATA PRACTICES

This is Sunshine Week, a national initiative focusing on
government transparency and accountability, as well as Freedom of Information. The
first point I want to make is that we live
in a democracy and it is every citizen’s
right to access government information.
Here in Minnesota, the
Minnesota Government Data Practices Act is the tool we use to gain access to
local government information. Compliance
with the Data Practices Act is not discretionary, but mandatory.

Government bodies 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. The Data Practices Act
is regarded by most
government bodies as a customer service function. Government bodies can not
eliminate their
data request function in order to divert the funds elsewhere as Superintendent
Gurban and Commissioners Olson and Kummer have suggested.

Because of the Data Practices Act, Park Watch has been able
to uncover information that had been withheld from the public and the commissioners;
for example, the
detailed plans for an unapproved and unauthorized multimillion dollar event
center at Parade as well as extensive plans for a $290,000 unapproved and
unauthorized new road at Parade.

It was Park Watch’s efforts that brought the road—and the
unauthorized fundraising plans for the unapproved event center—to the attention
of some of the Park Board commissioners.

My second point is to clarify the confusion over the cost of
the recently created and long overdue Data Practices position. At the December 5,
2007, Park Board meeting, former Park Board
President Jon Olson stated that “$100,000 of taxpayers’ dollars” were being
spent because of Data Practices requests.
Unfortunately, Commissioner Olson’s statement was incorrect.

Sunshine Week is a most appropriate time to review this
subject. Yes, there is a figure of
$88,686 in the 2008 budget for a permanent, full time Data Practices
position. However, the position
currently is only part time and temporary.
The individual is working only three days a week and earning
substantially less than the budgeted figure of $88,686. Last year she earned
$16,360 and no
benefits. This year she is earning $700
a week and no benefits. My mathematical
calculations are 52 weeks times $700 equals $36,400, which is scarcely
$100,000.

In closing, I want to reinforce the importance of the Data
Practices Act; and I want to stress that citizens need to understand that it is
okay to use it to access government information. And no government official should be
questioning or criticizing any citizen who uses the Data Practices Act.

Arlene Fried

Co-founder of Park Watch

Celebrating Sunshine Week

Sunshine Week has come and gone for this year, but its message of the importance of Transparency and Accountability in all government matters should be one that lingers on throughout the year.

The following article appeared on the St. Paul Pioneer Press’s website.

Citizen Sunshine

Pioneer Press Article Last Updated dated 03/15/2008 04:38:11 PM CDT

Protecting public access to public business is, by and large, not a very sexy endeavor. No plunging necklines, no paparazzi, no red carpets, no adoring crowds.
Sure, there’s the occasional headline, when an attempt by someone in government to keep secrets is so egregious that it provokes a court fight, or when some charismatic crusader uncovers corruption by using freedom of information laws.
But mostly there aren’t headlines. Mostly, there are quiet squads of persistent citizens who bother to inform themselves of their rights, who bother to insist that the expenditure of their tax money and the exercise of the power they grant to government be accompanied by access to information that will allow them to determine if their money has been well spent and their power well exercised.
Today begins Sunshine Week, a national effort to emphasize the importance of the public’s right to know what our governments are doing. (For more, see the column by Don Gemberling on the opposite page, and go to http://www.sunshineweek.org or elsewhere on the Web.) Public access to public information, as self-evident as the case for it may be, doesn’t just happen. Human nature often drives people to seek unfair advantage, and unfair advantage breeds well in the dark, away from the sunlight of public scrutiny. It takes active, persistent people to resist that drive, to protect the principles of open government.
So here’s to the little old lady who insists on seeing the fine print in the bus contract the school district signs. Here’s to the grumpy old man who demands a clear answer when he asks the city council why it’s getting up to go behind closed doors. Here’s to the fed-up taxpayer who wants to see official e-mail to understand better why so-and-so got a tax break. Here’s to the cranky partisans who scour the campaign contributions of political candidates and who raise hell when the reports thereof are late. Here’s to the ornery bloggers who mine the Web for source documents and more.
Here’s also to the many public officials and employees who understand that public information belongs to the people, not to the government, and here’s to librarians, attorneys, reporters and civic groups who walk the beat for openness.
Here’s to you all, you quiet squads of persistent citizens, you heroes of democracy.

UPDATE: COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE MEETING TO BE TELEVISED

Last night I received a voice message from Dawn Sommers, the Park Board’s Public
Relations representative, informing me that yesterday afternoon the Park Board
announced that it would be telecasting the Committee of the Whole meeting today. So
kudos to those who influenced this decision–a very significant one.

Arlene Fried
Co-founder of Park Watch.

A HEADS UP FOR THE MARCH 19, 2008 PARK BOARD MEETING

Some highlights:

5:00 P.M. REGULAR BOARD MEETING. The full Board will be approving the schematic design for East River Parkway and the 2008 golf rates.

The Board will also be voting to accept bids
totaling $150,000 for fertilizers and another $150,000 for “plant protectants.”

5:30 P.M. OPEN TIME. Because this is Sunshine Week, there will be at least one speaker honoring this annual national initiative.

6:00 P.M. COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE. There are three study/report items scheduled for a total allotted time of one hour and forty-five minutes; but cable viewers will not be privy to these discussions, because the Park Board is not televising them. For more information about what you will be missing if you are not able to attend the meeting, please refer to Liz’s comments also on Park Watch under “Park Board Retreats From Transparency During Sunshine Week.”

Only the Regular Board meeting will be broadcast live on cable channel 14 beginning at 5:00 P.M.

The complete agenda is usually available Monday or Tuesday on the Park Board’s website http://www.minneapolisparks.org

Arlene Fried, Co-founder of Park Watch

MPRB Board Meeting

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.

Date: 4/2/2008
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 Board Meeting

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.

Date: 4/16/2008
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

Park Board Retreats from Transparency during Sunshine Week

This week the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board will celebrate Sunshine Week* (www.sunshineweek.org) by retreating from transparency and public oversight. In a move that boggles the mind, the Park Board, after its regular meeting this Wednesday, will hold a Committee of the Whole meeting off-camera. Yep, they will all get up, leave their seats and move to an adjacent room that seats the board, staff and if really crammed in there tight, about 6 to 7 members of the public. Why do this when their comfy, newly-remodeled and television-friendly board room with all the gadgets and microphones are just 10 feet away? Ask them.

So you might ask what will they be discussing off the air, only recorded by a little digital voice recorder that could be accidentally erased with the touch of a button?

#1. Is your park for sale?

There will be a discussion about whether or not to sell Brian Coyle Center and Waite House (south Mpls.) to Pillsbury United, and Bethune to the Phyllis Wheatley organization. Is this good or bad? Will there be a lively and well-thought-out discussion? Park Watch will attempt to get it taped for YouTube but it sure would be of better quality if it were on Cable Access.

#2. Capital Funding and the Preferred Future

The Board Plans to discuss the system for deciding what will be their capital investment priorities for the future. What criteria your park and its programming have to meet for the MPRB to bother investing in it. You don’t really need to know so you can keep the doors open right?

#3. The Board of Estimation and Taxation

What will the levy request be? What is the dream %? Will they end up with 4%? Can they take over the bonding levy of the Library Board? Isn’t that money going to the county? Will they all be asking for more money even though my home value is going down? What are the answers? I’d say tune in to find out but…

#4. Action Item.

The board will ask that the 2009 Capital Improvement dollars that the Mayor and CLIC (Capital Long Range Improvement Committee) have designated for East Phillips Community Center ($141,000) be swapped out and used for 65 lights along Victory Parkway. This is a real live vote that won’t be on real live TV.

To see the actual agenda go to http://www.minneapolisparks.org/default.asp?PageID=37 . It should be up by Monday noon — unless it’s a holiday, or the staff person is sick or on vacation, or they are hacked again.

And for those of you following issues from last years budget — they will repeat this off-screen scenario again on April 16th, where they will be discussing Special Event and other assorted fees .

Sunshine, like bleach, kills bacteria and other bad things.

Tom Nordyke, President
Commissioner At Large
Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board
2117 West River Road
Minneapolis, MN 55411-2227
612-230-6443 ext. 8
tnordyke@minneapolisparks.org

Mary Merrill Anderson
Commissioner At Large
Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board
2117 West River Road
Minneapolis, MN 55411-2227
612-230-6443 ext. 7
mmerrillanderson@minneapolisparks.org

M. Annie Young
Commissioner At Large
Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board
2117 West River Road
Minneapolis, MN 55411-2227
612-230-6443 ext. 9
ayoung@minneapolisparks.org

Walt Dziedzic
Commissioner District 1
Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board
2117 West River Road
Minneapolis, MN 55411-2227
612-230-6443 ext. 1

Jon Olson
Commissioner District 2
Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board
2117 West River Road
Minneapolis, MN 55411-2227
612-230-6443 ext. 2

Scott Vreeland
Commissioner District 3
Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board
2117 West River Road
Minneapolis, MN 55411-2227
612-230-6443 ext. 3
svreeland@minneapolisparks.org

Tracy Nordstrom
Commissioner District 4
Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board
2117 West River Road
Minneapolis, MN 55411-2227
612-230-6443 ext. 4
tnordstrom@minneapolisparks.org

Carol A. Kummer
Commissioner District 5
Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board
2117 West River Road
Minneapolis, MN 55411-2227
612-230-6443 ext. 5
ckummer@minneapolisparks.org

Bob Fine
Commissioner District 6
Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board
2117 West River Road
Minneapolis, MN 55411-2227
612-230-6443 ext. 6
bfine@minneapolisparks.org

Jon Gurban
Superintendent
Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board
2117 West River Road
Minneapolis, MN 55411-2227
612-230-6400
jgurban@minneapolisparks.org

* Sunshine Week is a national initiative to open a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information.

PARKS UPDATE

By Mary O’Regan from the March 10, 2008 Southwest Journal

2008 legislative agenda

On Feb. 20, the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board’s Legislative and Intergovernmental Committee approved its 2008 legislative agenda with several amendments. The agenda will direct the efforts of the board’s lobbying team, Rice, Michels & Walther, LLP, in 2008.

Projects listed as requiring state bonding money, in order of priority, include:

$10 million for the Grand Rounds
Scenic Byway, which includes relighting paths and parking lots and completing the missing link;

$5.3 million to rehabilitate the
Minnehaha Falls Lower Glen;

$1 million for the Father Hennepin
Regional Park; and

$3.1 million to build a new community center in East Phillips Park.

The board had originally planned to include rehabilitating playground equipment at up to eight locations, including Calhoun, Harriet and Theodore Wirth parks; building additions to three community centers; continuing winter recreation redevelopment at Theodore Wirth Park; and developing J.D. Rivers Gardens for youth usage, but Park Board Attorney Brian Rice noted the projects would likely not get funded.

The legislative agenda also includes using Metropolitan Council bonding money to rehabilitate Theodore Wirth Beach; protecting local government aid (LGA); developing dedicated funding sources for environmental programs; finalizing a park-dedication ordinance; combating invasive tree species; opposing the elimination of the city’s Board of Estimate and Taxation; and collecting the proceeds from the sale of parkland at the site of the I-35W bridge collapse.

Format of board meetings to change

Beginning March 19, the format of Park Board meetings will change. Committee of the Whole meetings, in which commissioners receive in-depth information about topics determined by President Tom
Nordyke and staff, will take place on the third Wednesdays of each month after the regular board meetings that start at 5 p.m. Until now, the Committee of the Whole had been meeting at 4 p.m. — a time that was difficult for some commissioners and many members of the public to make.

On the first Wednesday of the month, regular board meetings will begin at 5 p.m. and committee meetings will follow. Normally, all commissioners are allowed to participate in discussions about items on a committee’s agendas, but under the new meeting format, commissioners have been asked to refrain from speaking during meetings of committees to which they don’t belong. Staff hopes that board members can accomplish the majority of their discussion during the monthly Committee of the Whole meetings, leaving fewer questions from nonmembers during committee meetings.

Southside Commissioner Carol Kummer said that if nonmembers want clarification on issues during committee meetings, they could always write their questions down and pass the paper to a member of the committee.

The board will try the new format for three months and then decide whether to adopt the method. All of the meetings will remain public. Additionally, staff will attach placards to each commissioner’s spot at the meeting table to let the public know which committee each member is on.

Contact Mary O’Regan at moregan@mnpubs.com or 436-5088.

DELASALLE: THERE WILL BE GRASS

By Steve Pease, from the March 10, 2008 Southwest Journal
– City council action

DeLaSalle: There will be grass

After months of dispute over whether a proposed athletic field — or stadium depending on whom you ask — at DeLaSalle High School on Nicollet Island will have synthetic or natural turf, the high school withdrew its appeal Feb. 29, effectively ending the debate.

“There will be grass,” said Council Member Gary Schiff (9th Ward) following the Feb. 29 City Council meeting.

Officially, the City Council unanimously denied the High School’s appeal of the Feb. 14 action by Heritage Preservation Commission that denied the school’s application to install synthetic turf on the proposed athletic facility (field, stadium, et al). Schiff said that it was his understanding that the appeal was at the behest of the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board, not the high school. It is unclear when construction will begin on the nonsynthetic playing surface.

Reach Steve Pease at spease@mnpubs.com.