The following articles by Cristof Traudes and Danielle Nordine appeared in the May 18, 2009 issue of the Southwest Journal:
AT PARK BOARD CANDIDATE FORUM, SIMILARITIES RULE THE EVENING
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.”
COMMISSION TAKES FINAL INPUT ON PROPOSED CHARTER CHANGES
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.
GREEN PARTY ENDORSES ONE FOR SOUTHWEST-REPRESENTING SEAT
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.