Monthly Archives: May 2009


The following articles by Cristof Traudes and Danielle Nordine appeared in the May 18, 2009 issue of the Southwest Journal:


At the first forum for candidates for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, held May 11, those seeking citywide seats proved they have a lot in common — and, in many cases, don’t see that differently from each other.

Maybe that’s because three of the candidates — Mary Merrill Anderson, Tom Nordyke and Annie Young — are currently on the board, while the only non-incumbent, John Erwin, is a former commissioner.

Each said they want to find more stable parks funding, each said they support keeping the board independent from the city and each said they use the parks system regularly. They also professed a similar disappointment: that citizens have not been treated appropriately.

Nordyke said that while he’s much enjoyed his past four years on the board, poor communication has sometimes led to a rocky relationship with residents. Young said the board has to consider changes in management.

“I swallow a lot, and I feel like I have to apologize to you for the way you’re treated,” Young said.

There were a few noticeable differences during the evening. While each candidate listed finances as a top concern for the Park Board, Erwin was alone in proposing the board hire more grant writers. Merrill Anderson said the board should try to become entirely independent.

Smaller district-race forums were held later in the evening. A forum for District 4 was mostly a question-and-answer session for Anita Tabb, who is the sole candidate in the race. Tabb talked about the board needing to become more transparent as well as more fiscally responsible.

The District 6 forum also was a question-and-answer session, as one of the two candidates, incumbent Commissioner Bob Fine, couldn’t attend.

That left newcomer Brad Bourn, who talked about forming appropriate partnerships and making the Park Board more accountable to citizens. Parks staff, he said, have been too internally focused for too long, which he said Superintendent Jon Gurban bears some responsibility for.

Bourn took a moment to acknowledge Fine’s time on the board and many years coaching youth sports.

“I think we need a Coach Fine in every neighborhood,” Bourn said. “But I think Commissioner Fine has seen a lot of his ideas already come to fruition.”


Public input on a trio of proposed city charter changes ended much like it began: with some support for a new city administrator position, little discussion on the Board of Estimate and Taxation, and a lot of personal stories about Minneapolis’ parks.

About 70 people came to the Charter Commission’s final public hearing on the changes.

Brad Johnson, Park Police chief, said his force is best suited for protecting the parks. Without a Park Board, he said, there would be no Park Police.

Speakers shared personal stories about the parks and how Minneapolis has one of the best systems in the country. Few, however, talked about whether they wanted the proposed changes to be voted on in the fall election, which was what the Charter Commission had been hoping to collect input on.

“Stop talking about the Park Board,” Charter Commissioner Barry Lazarus said. “Just tell us if you think we should or shouldn’t put this on the ballot.”

Proponents of the amendments included two of their authors, City Council members Paul Ostrow and Ralph Remington, who again reiterated the arduousness of having as many layers of city government as Minneapolis has. Council Member Scott Benson also came out in support.

The Charter Commission will decide on June 3 whether the amendments will appear on the Nov. 3 ballot.


The 5th Congressional District Green Party has endorsed incumbent Park Board Commissioner Annie Young in her fifth reelection bid, while two newcomers await the party’s backing.

At a May 9 convention, two candidates were hoping to get endorsements for races affecting Southwest: Young and Jeanine Estimé, who is seeking the 8th Ward City Council seat. Estimé came up just shy from winning endorsement; party representatives said they liked her early campaign efforts but were concerned about her knowledge of some issues.

Meanwhile, Whittier resident Bruce Lundeen also is hoping for Green endorsement. A newcomer, Lundeen announced too late to get screened before the party’s convention. He likely will be considered for endorsement at a meeting next month.


The following articles by Cristof Traudes appeared in the May 18, 2009 issue of the Southwest Journal:


While the city is staring down skyrocketing costs because of pension fund payments, the Park Board is expected to take a wait-and-see approach. That has left city representatives unhappy.

Because of the rocky economy, the city over the next five years is anticipating owing as much as an additional $155 million, something that could lead to much higher property taxes. The city is hoping to mitigate the issue by trying to talk the pension funds into merging with a state fund, but oversight boards have been hesitant.

That led city representatives in April to the Park Board, hoping to find support for their direction.

“As goes the city, so go the parks,” City Council Member Betsy Hodges (13th Ward) said.

But a May 6 report from General Manager Don Siggelkow didn’t see the situation as that dour for the parks. While Siggelkow said it is troubling from a city finance perspective, past pension fund crises have never had a significant effect on the Park Board. He also said that, contrary to city reports, the pension funds’ oversight boards appear willing to help prevent the massive tax impacts.

Hodges and Peter Wagenius, Mayor R.T. Rybak’s senior policy aide, sat in the front row during the report and could be seen shaking their heads throughout. When Siggelkow was done, they asked from their seats whether they could speak. Committee Chairwoman Carol Kummer declined, which led Wagenius to stand up and yell, “Wow! Wow!”

He later called out the Park Board’s attorney, Brian Rice, for representing both the board and the pension funds.

“This conflict of interest is not a grey area,” Wagenius said. “… This is basic ethics in government.”

The Intergovernmental Relations Committee unanimously adopted a resolution that requests the city and the pension funds find a solution. The full board will vote on it May 13.



A Citizen Advisory Committee will begin meeting this month to evaluate the future of the Lake Harriet concession.

Park Board staff had recommended putting a Sea Salt Seafood Eatery in the stand and building a small new structure by the Lake Harriet Band Shell from which to sell popcorn and ice cream. Commissioners and neighbors wanted a second opinion — hence the creation of the advisory committee, whose job it will be to assess the scope of concession opportunities, the atmosphere of the band shell area, and a design and site for the possible new structure.

The committee members are Joel Chechik, Roann Cramer, John Finlayson, Sarah Harris, Donovan Hart, Janet Holloway, Elizabeth Larson, Bruce Manning, Lisa McDonald, Mark Peterson and Joseph Schmidt. Matt Perry will serve as chairman.

They will meet four times — May 19, June 1, June 22 and July 13 — at 7 p.m. at the Linden Hills Recreation Center, 3100 W. 43rd St.



LYNNHURST — The Park Board approved investigating the use of a long-unused special assessment to help pay for $234,000 in repairs of the shuttered Bryant Avenue pedestrian bridge. However, they also left open the possibility that federal stimulus funds could cover the entire project.

Parks planner Judd Rietkerk said the bridge is No. 9 on a list of 10 projects being weighed over by the Metropolitan Council. A decision from the council is expected in late May or early June.


The following report by Cristof Traudes about the May 16th DFL Park Board endorsements appeared in the May 18, 2009, on-line issue of the Southwest Journal:


At the convention, representatives of Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board District 6, which includes lakes Calhoun and Harriet, again chose not to endorse incumbent Commissioner Bob Fine. Despite three previous election wins, Fine has never received the DFL endorsement.

Fine had tried to persuade delegates by pointing out his successes of the past four years, including helping to create a comprehensive plan for the Park Board and to form the Lakes District Council. He also called himself a key player in the completion of the Nieman Sports Complex.

It wasn’t enough. By a 94-25 vote, the nod instead went to newcomer Brad Bourn, who works at a North Side nonprofit with youth. Bourn said he would bring more transparency to the Park Board, as well as keep citizens on the forefront of its work. He also faulted Fine for the Nieman Complex — which bleeds money, Bourn said — and for being a key part of the hiring of Superintendent Jon Gurban, whom he called one of the most controversial superintendents the Park Board has ever had.

For Park Board District 4, which includes Lake of the Isles, delegates endorsed first-time candidate Anita Tabb. She currently is the only person running to replace outgoing Commissioner Tracy Nordstrom.

Also, all three at-large Park Board candidates seeking DFL endorsements received them.


The following article by Steve Brandt appeared in Sunday’s May 17, 2009 Star Tribune.

DFLers also seemed to signal they may want a new direction for the Park Board by snubbing two incumbents by withholding endorsements.

Southwest-area Commissioner Bob Fine was trounced by Brad Bourn for the party nod. But Fine said he’s planning to run anyhow, given that he has been elected to the Park Board three times without party backing. Bourn, who got the support of 79 percent of delegates, is a youth and volunteer coordinator for a North Side community agency.

Liz Wielinski easily won endorsement with 72 percent over Michael Rainville for the East Side park seat being vacated by Walt Dziedzic. She has been following park issues for six years and helped to organize a Park Board monitoring group. Rainville, who works for the area convention and visitors bureau, said he hasn’t decided whether to run against Wielinski in the November election.

The contests for two park endorsements deadlocked. The three-way battle for the Nokomis-area seat ended after two ballots without a winner claiming a 60 percent threshold and when two trailing candidates united to adjourn. Martin Demgen, who was leading with 48 percent, Jason Stone and Steve Barland all plan to run. Demgen has labor support while Rybak backs Stone.

In a North Side district, neither Natalie Collins nor incumbent Jon Olson got the needed 60 percent support in four ballots, with Collins leading.

Anita Tabb was endorsed without opposition in the Calhoun-area board seat being vacated by Tracy Nordstrom. Scott Vreeland was endorsed for another term in his riverside district.

Park Board citywide Commissioners Tom Nordyke and Mary Merrill Anderson won endorsement for another term, and John Erwin was endorsed to return to the board after sitting out one term.

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438


LAKE HARRIET REGIONAL PARK CAC. The first meeting of the Lake Harriet Citizen’s Advisory Council (CAC) will be TUESDAY, MAY 19 at 7 pm. The CAC will first meet at the site of the Lake Harriet Concession Stand (43rd St. W. & E. Lake Harriet Pkwy) and then will continue at the Linden Hills Recreation Center (3100 43rd St. W.) Dates for the follow-up meetings are June 1, June 22 and July 13. The meetings are open to the public.

REGULAR PARK BOARD MEETING. The regular MPRB meeting will be held at 5 pm on WEDNESDAY, MAY 20, 2009, at Park Board Headquarters, 2117 W. River Road. This meeting will be televised. For more information go to the Park Board’s website



The Minnesota Orchestra recently informed the Park Board that it will not be able to perform its annual free concert, because it lost the funding for this year’s public performance at the Lake Harriet Band Shell.

This very special annual event has attracted large crowds and its cancellation is a huge disappointment. Is it possible that somehow, somewhere, there might be a sponsor who might step forward to rescue this wonderful cultural event?

Arlene Fried

Co-founder of Park Watch


Crown Hydro’s one-hour presentation at the April 15, 2009, Park Board meeting was underwhelming. There was nothing new presented. What is new is that we are hearing that Crown Hydro has hired another lobbyist to influence the commissioners who have been opposed to the Crown Hydro project. Those commissioners would be Board President Tom Nordyke and Commissioners Annie Young, Walt Dziedzic, Mary Merrill Anderson and Scott Vreeland, who all voted against Crown Hydro in 2007.

Commissioners Bob Fine and Jon Olson are supporters of Crown Hydro. Both voted for Crown Hydro twice–when it came before the Board in 2004 and again in 2007. Carol Kummer, who also voted for Crown Hydro twice, is its most outspoken and fervent supporter. In fact, she is so enthusiastic about Crown Hydro, it would be easy to mistake her for a Crown Hydro lobbyist.

To sum up, Crown Hydro has been before the MPRB twice and turned down twice. After two rejections by the MPRB, Crown Hydro’s unsuccessful lobbyists were replaced by a new set of lobbyists who spearheaded an attempt to circumvent the Park Board by going to the Legislature and lobbying for a bill which would have forced the Park Board to turn parkland over to Crown Hydro for its controversial project. This effort also failed when, after a March 3 legislative meeting with the Park Board and stakeholders, the Crown Hydro senate bill was withdrawn.

Organizations speaking against the Crown Hydro bill were the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Minnesota Historical Society, the National Park Service, Friends of the Mississippi, League of Cities, the City of Minneapolis, the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota and the Friends of the Riverfront.

If this project were a project with unquestionable merit, it would have been approved the first time it came before the Board. But the problem is that it is not a project with unquestionable merit. It is a risky project which would harm natural, cultural and historic resources. According to Superintendent of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area Paul Labovitz who spoke at the March 3 legislative hearing, hydropower is not green energy when it harms natural and cultural resources.

The historic and iconic St. Anthony Falls belong to all of us and it is important to protect and preserve them for future generations. That means retaining full ownership and control of both the priceless riverfront park and and also the riparian rights associated with that parkland.

Arlene Fried
Co-founder of Park Watch

Park Board Meeting on May 6, 2009

The first of the six blacked out Park Board meetings will be on May 6, 2009. For more information about the meeting, go to the Park Board’s website

The meetings will be held:

Wednesday, May 6 – Armatage Park gym,
2500 57th St. W, 612-370-4912

Wednesday, June 3 – Bottineau Park field house,
2000 2nd St. NE, 612-370-4958

Wednesday, July 1 – Powderhorn Park gym,
3400 15th Ave. S, 612-370-4960

Wednesday, Aug. 5 – Elliot Park multi-purpose room,
1000 14th St. E, 612-370-4772

Wednesday, Sept. 2 – Folwell Park gym,
1615 Dowling Ave. N, 612-370-4917

Wednesday, Oct. 7 – Pearl Park gym,
414 E. Diamond Lake Rd., 612-370-4906

Calhoun Southshore Parking & Plaza Project

The following letter from a number of concerned citizens urging the Park Board to convene a Citizens Advisory Committee for the Lake Calhoun Southshore Parking Lot & Plaza Project was sent to the MPRB Commissioners on April 29, 2009:

An OPEN LETTER to the Minneapolis Park Board
Richard Road/Berry Road/ West Calhoun Parkway
Project Cost $350,000.00 +
Target Date 2009

Dear Commissioners:

This pending project involves the complete demolition of an existing asphalt parking lot (formerly Richfield Road), to be followed by the total reconstruction
of a new parking lot (asphalt/pavers/rain garden), resulting in a substantial reduction of parking stalls (approx 50%), as well as altering its configuration
and location along the southshore of Lake Calhoun.

According to Minneapolis Park Board guidelines, all capital improvement projects require the convening of a Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC), as a vehicle for public scrutiny and involvement:

“Citizen’s Advisory Committees are mandated” by MPRB Ord PB 11 (99-101) and “are required when the Park Board proposes to construct or redevelop a park facility.” The CAC follows a more formal, in-depth citizen review process with an appointed chairperson and appointed representatives. Typically, multiple hearings are scheduled and are open to the public. The committee recommendations are forwarded to the MPRB for their consideration. They will either approve, reject or amend the CAC’s recommendations and forward to the Mayor for his signature.

Unfortunately, Park Board staff is mischaracterizing this $350,000.00 capital improvement and reconstruction project as a simple “maintenance” project, thereby evading the required mandate for a Citizen’s Advisory Committee.

In September 2008, Park Bord staff signed an agreement with HKG, a landscape scape design firm, for $47,200.00 “for design development and preparation of construction documents for Phase 1 of the Lake Calhoun South Shore Parking
and Plaza project.”

By keeping this agreement under $50,000.00, Park Board staff was able to avoid bringing this agreement to the Commissioners for their review, and initate this project without any public oversight.

By keeping the number of new parking spaces below ten, Park Board staff was able to develop the design plan without bringing it to the City of Minneapolis Planning Department for approval as part of the standard Preliminary Design review process.

It was only because of a public citizen Data Request to disclose MPRB file information that the existence of the Lake Calhoun Southshore Parking and Plaza project was uncovered.

Preliminary drawings (on file) for “Phase II” have also been completed by HKG and appear to include the following amenities: (plaza w/boardwalk and outdoor
seating, kiosk, restrooms, rain gardens, sculpture wall, and vendor “slots.” Specific timing for Phase II and associated costs are not yet known.

This multi-phase project is just one of several presently under consideration by MPRB staff for future development around Lake Calhoun. It should be noted that projects such as these may very well have merit and represent desirable
changes that will improve both the aesthetics and functioning of Lake Calhoun Regional Park. However, the following concerns regarding citizen participation still need to be addressed:


a) Though many concerns were raised regarding this project by members and guests at the January 21, 2009 Lakes District Council meeting, a group representing over 15 neighborhood associations located in and around the Chain of
Lakes, and though requests were made to Commissioners Fine and Nordstrom who were in attendance, to “slow this process down,” It has recently been confirmed that MPRB staff is still intent on moving forward with this project.
SOURCE: Southwest Journal 9 February 2009.

b) These projects should be considered, not in isolation, but more import- antly,within the entire context of the soon to be proposed Lake Calhoun Master Plan. The Southshore project (Phases I-II) encompass two intertwined concepts that need to be reviewed at the same time and before any construction begins.

c) There has been limited opportunity for the public to be directly involved in the design/planning process for the Lake Calhoun Southshore Parking Lot & Plaza Project. The Park Board’s own ordinance and operations hand-book define a very specific planning process which requires interaction and the direct involvement of the public in reviewing this type of project (see “flow chart”).


In October 2007, Commissioner T. Nordstrom was quoted at a Lakes District Council meeting: “the Park Board believes that citizen participation is needed, necessary, and desirable. The trend is toward more transparency, not less.” Unfortunately, since that statement was made, there has been and continues to be projects initiated by Park Board staff with little or no notice to their own commis- sioners, the stewards of our nationally recognized, historic 125 year old park system,

Information was nonetheless brought to the attention of Park Board commissioners by members of the public during “Open Time” at their November 19, 2008 televised meeting. To date, this project has never been on any MPRB meeting agenda. How can you allow park board staff to bid out this $350,000+ project without your review, authorization and formal approval (vote)?


In the interest of openness and transparency, the undersigned are requesting that the MPRB:

a) follow prescribed guidelines and immediately forward this project to the full Board of Commissioners for their review and approval,

b) if and when approved, issue a statement confirming their commitment to establish a Citizens Advisory Committee for the Lake Calhoun Southshore Parking & Plaza Project,

c) defer all proposed work at Lake Calhoun Regional Park until this mandated public review process has been completed.

Thank you for your timely consideration in this matter.


Concerned Citizens:

Sally Anson-West Calhoun,
Kay Graham-Calhoun,
Harvey Ettinger-East Isles,
Jan Prescott-East Isles,
Marissa Lasky-Bryn Mawr,
Kay Anderson-East Calhoun,
Kathy Low-Kenwood,
Anita Tabb-Lowry Hill,
Beth Kehoe- Lowry Hill,
Rita O’Keefe-Lowry Hill East