Monthly Archives: July 2009

PARK BOARD ELECTION FILINGS

PARK BOARD ELECTION FILINGS

Filings for Park Board seats in the November general election closed on July 21, 2009. By filing for one of the three at-large seats, sixth district Commissioner Bob Fine is abandoning his own district and avoiding having to defend himself against Brad Bourn, a viable first-time candidate who won the DFL endorsement by a large margin.

When Meg Forney, an old friend of Bob’s, appeared as a candidate in district six, there was speculation that Bob would be going for the at-large seat because Meg, when asked, has said that she would not run against Bob. By switching to at-large, Bob can devote all his time to promoting the Independent Park Board charter amendment and avoid debating any district issues like citizen participation and Lake Calhoun.

John Erwin, a former Park Board commissioner, was endorsed by the DFL for one of the three at-large seats. Annie Young is the only Green party candidate.

In the second district, Michael Guest, an unexpected candidate, has filed against Jon Olson who did not get the DFL endorsement. Luann Wilcox dropped out.

Carol Kummer’s bid for re-election in the fifth district was a surprise as the word was that that she wanted to retire. Carol is known for her unwavering and outspoken support for the Crown Hydro project, which Park Watch has opposed. Jason Stone, who ran against Carol four years ago and lost by a very narrow margin, is running again.

Here are all the Park Board filings as posted in the Star Tribune by Steve Brandt on July 22, 2009:

AT-LARGE PARK BOARD
Tom Nordyke, John Erwin, Annie Young, Mary Merrill Anderson, John Butler, David Wahlstedt, Bob Fine and Nancy Bernard. Nordyke, Erwin and Merrill Anderson are DFL-endorsed; Young is Green-endorsed.

PARK BOARD DISTRICTS
District 1: Liz Wielinski, Bernie Kunza and John Malone (Wielinski is DFL-endorsed); District 2: Jon Olson, LuAnn Wilcox and Michael Guest; District 3: Scott Vreeland and Mike Wendorf (Vreeland is DFL-endorsed); District 4: Anita Tabb (DFL-endorsed); District 5: Steve Barland, Dan W. Peterson, McClain Looney, Jason Stone and Carol Kummer; District 6: Meg Forney, Brad Bourn, Geneva Hanvik and Steven Jecha (Bourn is DFL-endorsed.)

THE REQUEST FOR BIDS NOTICE FOR THE LAKE CALHOUN SOUTH SHORE PARKING PROJECT

The following request for bids by the MPRB for the Lake Calhoun South Shore Parking project appeared in Finance and Commerce. Dated on June 9, it states that the bids will be opened on July 9. But the project plans were never brought to the commissioners for approval BEFORE being sent out to bid. And the public NEVER had an opportunity to weigh in on this project.

One of the main reasons that citizen participation was denied was because Sixth District Commissioner Bob Fine was opposed to it. Because the project is in his district, it was difficult to overcome his unwillingness to invite public comment.

The RFP was obtained by Park Watch through the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.

Arlene Fried
Co-founder of Park Watch

_______________________________________________________________________

Conflict of Interest/Code of Ethics: Contractor agrees to be bound by the City’s Code of Ethics, Minneapolis Code of Ordinances, Chapter 15. Contractor certifies that to the best of its knowledge all City employees and officers participating in this Agreement have also complied with that Ordinance. It is agreed by the Parties that any violation of the Code of Ethics constitutes grounds for the City to void this Agreement. All questions relative to this section shall be referred to the City and shall be promptly answered.

Chapter 377 of the Minnesota Statutes prohibits gifts from interested persons to local officials. Local officials includes any individuals who purchase, advise or recommend on the purchase of goods and/or services.

All successful bidder(s) will be required to comply fully with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).

*****

Official Publication No. __________

CALL FOR BIDS

Official Publication No. ____________

CITY OF MINNEAPOLIS

M I N N E S O T A
June 08, 2009

PURCHASING DEPARTMENT
Park and Recreation Board

330 Second Avenue South – Suite 552

Minneapolis, MN 55401

For information call

AN AFFIRMATIVE ACTION EMPLOYER (612) 673-2333 Mr. David Ybarra

________________________________________________________________________________________________

BIDS FOR: “LAKE CALHOUN SOUTH PARKING LOT IMPROVEMENTS”

Scope of Work includes: To furnish all labor, materials, equipment and incidentals necessary to accomplish: miscellaneous site demolition, earthwork, construction of bituminous surfacing, permeable paver system, reinforced grass paver system, concrete surfacing, temporary fencing, drain tile and storm sewer connection, electrical work, Lighting installation, landscaping, and related items. Site location is: east of the intersection of West Calhoun Parkway and Richfield Road on the north side of Richfield Road, in the city of Minneapolis.

All in accordance with plans and specifications which may be obtained upon payment of a non-refundable fee of $100.00 per set, at the offices of HGKI, Inc., 123 North Third St., Suite 100, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1659 (612) 338-0800- PHONE, (612) 338-6838 – FAX. Plans will not be mailed. Limited sets will be available and additional sets will be printed on request with an approximate 2-3 day wait.

Complete project documents (including addenda) are also available for electronic downloading at on Quest Construction Data Network http://www.questcdn.com for $10.00 by entering e-bid # 904217 or searching under parking lots. Please contact QuestCDN.com at (952)233-1632 or infor@questcdn.com for assistance. The current plan holder’s list is also available on Quest CDN for no charge.

Documents will be available for review at, N.A.M.C. Plan Room, F.W. Dodge Corporation, Minneapolis and St. Paul Builders Exchanges and MEDA Minority Contractors Plan Room.

NOTE:

The documents issued to the Plan Rooms are for information ONLY. If you intend to submit a bid on a City of Minneapolis project, you must obtain the documents from the distribution points indicated on the Call for Bids, to ensure having complete project/bidding information.

There will not be a Pre-Bid meeting, however, bidders are encouraged to inspect the Parking Lot at South Lake Calhoun on their own prior to placing a bid.

Successful bidder shall be subject to a pre-award Affirmative Action Compliance Review by the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights in accordance with Chapter 139.50(b) and Chapter 423 Small and Underutilized Business Enterprise Program of the Minneapolis Code of Ordinances.

The City of Minneapolis hereby notifies all bidders that in regard to any invitations to bid, advertisements, solicitations, or contracts to be entered into pursuant to this Plan, businesses owned and controlled by minorities or women will be afforded maximum feasible opportunity to submit bids and/or proposals and will not be subject to discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, age, religion, ancestry, affectional preference, disability, public assistance status, marital status or national origin.

Prospective bidders’ attention is called to Minnesota Statutes 13.591 Business Data. This section states in part:

Data submitted by a business to a government entity in response to a request for bids as defined in Section 16C.02, Subdivision 11 are private or non-public until the bids are opened. Once the bids are opened, the name of the bidder and the dollar amount specified in the response are read and become public. All other data in a bidder’s response to a bid are private or non-public data until completion of the selection process. For purposes of this section, “completion of the selection process” means that the government entity has completed its evaluation and has ranked the responses. After a government entity has completed the selection process, all remaining data submitted by all bidders are public with the exception of trade secret data as defined and classified in Section 13.37. A statement by a bidder that submitted data are copyrighted or otherwise protected does not prevent public access to the data contained in the bid.

Bidders are hereby advised that their bid documents may become available to the public once a successful bidder has been chosen.

Chapter 471.895 of the Minnesota Statutes prohibits gifts from interested persons to local officials. Local officials includes any individuals who purchase, advise or recommend on the purchase of goods and/or services.

Published in Finance and Commerce

Sealed bids will be received and time stamped by receptionist until Date 10:00 AM, CDST, July 09, 2009 at which time they will be publicly opened and read aloud. Do not fax bids to Purchasing.

Bids must be accompanied by a bid deposit in the amount of 2% of the total amount bid in the form of a certified check or bidder’s corporate surety bond made payable to the Minneapolis Finance Officer.

________________________________________________________________________________________________

Envelope must bear the name of the firm submitting the bid and be addressed as follows:

City of Minneapolis Purchasing Department

OFFL. PUBL. #______ – BIDS FOR “LAKE CALHOUN SOUTH PARKING LOT IMPROVEMENTS”

Bids opened 10:00 AM, CST July 09, 2009

330 Second Avenue South – Suite 552

Minneapolis, MN 55401

________________________________________________________________________________________________

The Park and Recreation Board reserves the right to waive informalities in bids, to accept or reject any or all bids or any part of any bid. Bids must be typewritten and signed in ink in handwriting.

TWO complete bid responses, including attachments, are to be returned, one of which must be an original.

BIDS CONTAINING ANY ALTERATION OR ERASURE WILL BE REJECTED UNLESS ALTERATION OR ERASURE IS CROSSED OUT AND CORRECTION PRINTED IN INK OR TYPEWRITTEN AND INITIALED IN INK BESIDE CORRECTION BY THE PERSON SIGNING THE BID.

SHOULD THERE BE CONCESSION CHANGES AT LAKE HARRIET?

A notice was recently sent out to Lake Harriet residents inviting them to a meeting about possible changes at Lake Harriet. This is a summary of that notice.

SHOULD THERE BE CONCESSION CHANGES AT LAKE HARRIET?

The Lake Harriet Citizens Advisory Council and the Lake Harriet area neighborhood associations are sponsoring a meeting to discuss possible concession changes–and maybe a new building–at the Lake Harriet Pavilion Area.

Thursday, July 30 2009, 7:00-8:30 p.m.

St. John’s Episcopal Church, 4201 Sheridan Avenue South

To be discussed:

Should food concessions be expanded at the Lake Harriet Pavilion/Bandshell area? If Lake Harriet concessions do expand, any structural changes that may be considered.
Possible impacts if there are changes to concessions.

For more information, visit http://www.lakeharrietcac.ning.com

LAKE CALHOUN: PLANS TO PLAN AGAIN?

LAKE CALHOUN: PLANS TO PLAN AGAIN?

The following article by By Cristof Traudes appeared in the Southwest Journal on June 29, 2009. However, since publication, it has come to our attention through a data practices request that “there is no data responsive to a 1997 Lake Calhoun Master Plan.” In other words, there is no 1997 Master Plan as stated in the article.

LAKE CALHOUN: PLANS TO PLAN AGAIN?

Park Board commissioners recently created a citizens’ advisory committee to investigate Lake Harriet’s future. Now, some are asking for the same at Calhoun.

When change is proposed at Lake Calhoun, people complain.

Case in point: When Theodore Wirth, today regarded as the brains behind much of Minneapolis’ park system, last century wanted to dredge the lake to create beaches, citizens put up a fight. The dredging happened anyway.

A more recent example: When a Park and Recreation Board watchdog group learned late last year that a $350,000 overhaul of the lake’s south shore parking lot was coming down the pipeline despite little to no community input, a small clamor ensued.

E-mails were sent. Phone calls were made. Letters were mailed.

Yet the project, by most indications, is still moving ahead. Bids for construction were sent out in June.

A few facts about what’s being called the Lake Calhoun South Shore Parking Lot and Plaza Project, Phase One:

• The parking lot’s current condition is one of torn-up pavement, bumps and barely-visible spot markings. The new lot’s surface will be even and repainted.

• The project will be paid for with operations and maintenance funds for regional parks. The same fund has been used for such projects as the repairs of Lake Harriet’s north beach retaining walls and the repaving of East River and West River roads.

• Park staff keeps a running list of projects it would use those regional parks funds for, which is presented annually to the board’s commissioners. The lot repair has been on that list since about 2004, said Planning Director Judd Rietkerk.

• When the project is done, there are expected to be 50 parking spaces. Depending on how people park now, there are 19 to 42 spaces.

• The new surface will be less impervious and thus less prone to force storm water to flow directly into the lake. Permeable pavers will be installed on the northern end of the lot, as will several rain gardens.

Park staff maintains that the project is little more than the fix-up of a rundown parking lot. And because it’s classified as maintenance, the project’s development has needed neither a review process nor approval from the Park Board’s elected commissioners. (The board will, however, vote on accepting a bid.)

That’s the source of the concerns: Does all of the above truly add up to merely maintenance?

To Southwest resident Michael Chummers, the answer is no. A legal definition of maintenance, he said, considers it the preservation — not the improvement — of an asset. The parking lot project, he said, is an upgrade.

But Commissioner Bob Fine, whose district contains the lot, said it’s OK. So did Commissioner Tracy Nordstrom, who represents the northern side of the lake.

“It is maintenance,” Fine said. “If it wasn’t near a lake, I can guarantee no people would care.”

His opponent in the upcoming election, however, said it’s not that black and white.

“I think it’s kind of borderline,” Brad Bourn said.

He isn’t alone. The board’s president, Tom Nordyke, said the classification isn’t so much the issue; it’s the communication. People have been asking what’s up, he said, and in the current Park Board environment, taking a little extra time couldn’t hurt.

‘I feel like I have to apologize’

Perhaps no recent project embodies constituent-Park Board communication concerns more than Parade Stadium. In 2007, citizens — and some commissioners — were surprised to discover park staff’s plans for the artificial turf field west of the Sculpture Garden. There was a relative uproar, with some asking whether staff were acting without authority.

There also were complaints in 2003, when the board hired Jon Gurban as the system’s superintendent. Gurban was a last-minute addition to the list of potential hirees, and the move was criticized as poor public process. Citizens cried foul, and the move was pivotal to the creation of watchdog group Park Watch.

At a candidate forum earlier this year, Annie Young looked seriously disappointed, glum almost. The 20-year commissioner had been asked what she thought the board could improve, what it hasn’t done well.

Young looked out at the audience, a small group of park issues regulars, and in her signature raspy voice — but quieter — said, “Communication.”

Citizens don’t hear from the board enough; the board doesn’t respond well enough to citizens.

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

Revisit, or revise?

Critics of the south shore parking lot say the biggest issue isn’t so much the project itself; it’s the process. A letter from several concerned citizens, including current board candidate Anita Tabb, said the changes at the lot are major enough that the project should be put on hold while a citizen advisory committee is formed to advise on the future of that part of the lake.

But there already is a grand plan for Lake Calhoun, commissioners Fine and Nordstrom pointed out. The Park Board, after lengthy efforts from a citizen advisory committee, in 1997 signed off on a master plan, one that included proposals for such things as a pavilion on the north beach, extending the trolley line up to Lake Street, closing part of the parkway and reconfiguring the pathway system.

None of those have happened, of course. That’s mostly because the money just hasn’t been available, Nordstrom said. Today’s Park Board is forced to operate in a more piece-meal manner. And because of that, she said she wants to hold two public informational sessions to specifically delve into what the board’s current interests are. Nordstrom said she believes what most citizens want is an understanding of the board’s priorities for Lake Calhoun, not another long and complicated process to develop ideas.

Nordstrom is hoping to develop those informational sessions this summer and schedule them for the fall.

Critics say that still isn’t enough. While Nordstrom said input would be taken from citizens at her sessions, they don’t think two meetings will be enough to determine Calhoun’s future. A citizens’ advisory committee, Southwest resident Harvey Ettinger said, would do a better job.

There’s a very current example of that, he said: Lake Harriet. There, a citizen committee’s discussions about the future of band-shell concessions have morphed into a small area-wide visioning process.

But neither Nordstrom nor Fine are interested in going that route for Calhoun. It wouldn’t make sense to go through another long process, come up with new ideas and then not be able to execute them because of a lack of money, they said.

Furthermore, major citizen concerns might actually not exist. Just ask park planner Andrea Weber, who has a lead role in the parking lot project. She said there’s really no strong opposition to speak of.

On June 16, a sign went up at the lot announcing its imminent reconstruction. The next day, three people came to the Park Board’s meeting to object.

The Mayor's Veto Letter to the Park Board

THE MAYOR’S VETO LETTER TO THE PARK BOARD

The following letter sent to the to the Park Board on July 8 outlines the reasons for the Mayor’s veto of the Park Board’s resolution to terminate its financial dependence on the city by placing a charter amendment on the November ballot, allowing it to go directly to the Legislature for funding.

July 8, 2009

President Tom Nordyke
Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board
400 South Fourth Street, Suite 200
Minneapolis, MN 55415-1097

Park Board President Tom Nordyke and Park Board Members:

I have vetoed both Park Board Action 9.2, that the Board adopt Resolution 2009-155 and Resolution 2009-155, as passed by the Park Board on July 1, 2009.

I love parks. I believe our Minneapolis Parks are an essential part of what makes Minneapolis a great place to live, work and play. I want to work with you to address the challenges faced by the Park Board.

But this action would open the door to unlimited property tax increases. I strongly oppose this for the following three reasons:

FINANCIAL IMPACT

First, I believe it will result in huge property tax increases, over and above those painful increases which are already being forced by state LGA cuts and skyrocketing pension obligations.

Over the past seven years I have served as Mayor, I am proud to say we have paid down or avoided almost $90 million dollars in debts. Paying down those inherited debts has allowed us to redirect money to crucial services like
police, fire, and parks. The amenities we love, including Parks, depend on sound budgeting to keep them strong, not just for today, but for generations to come.

INCORRECT PREMISE

My second objection to this amendment is that it is based on an incorrect premise. The false premise is that the Park Board has been unfairly treated by the City Council’s revenue policies. The Park Board’s rhetoric cites one
statistic in isolation, namely that the Park board levies have been held to 4% per year while the city has received 8% each year. What this ignores is the fact that the City pays for shared costs out of the City portion. These shared
costs include pension obligations, internal service fund debts and capital debt service. When you factor in these other costs, you find that 4% and 8% are not remotely representative of the whole picture. You find that:

● Property tax revenue and LGA used for General Fund activities of the City have increased an average of 3.29% annually since 2003.
● Property tax revenue and LGA used for Park Board activities have increased an average of 2.13% annually since 2003.
● The difference is attributable to the City’s restoration of funding for public safety, which includes public safety service provided in Parks by the City.

This general information has been provided to the Park Board on many previous occasions and these specific numbers were provided to the Park Board by Finance Director Pat Born on April 1, 2009.

I am open to discussing how those shared costs should be paid for. Currently they are paid for out of the City’s share. They could also be paid for “off the top,” before other dollars are allocated. I am open to that. But I am not open to ignoring these costs.

As long as I am Mayor, I will not let us go back to the days when huge debts were accumulated without any regard to how that would affect taxpayers or our shared ability to deliver crucial services like Police, Fire, Parks and Public
Works. As irresponsible budget actions at the State have shown us, short term financial band-aids have long term consequences. I will not support such actions – and I will not support this amendment.

A DESIRE TO TACKLE TOUGH ISSUES TOGETHER

My third reason for opposing this amendment is that is a misdirection from the real issues that face both the City and the Parks.

To perpetuate the idea that the Park Board’s financial challenges are caused by the City is to waste precious time and resources and ignore the real causes of
our shared challenges, which are first, state aid cuts and second, skyrocketing pension obligations. Both of these require Legislative action.

But even today with pension costs skyrocketing, the Park Board has still failed to support the City and its taxpayers in our efforts to end pension abuses. Here’s an example you are already aware of: When the 35W bridge collapsed, the
overtime of just three Minneapolis Police Officers increased City pension obligations by over million dollars. This is just one example of a broader problem: millions of dollars that could have been used to support Police, Fire,
Parks, Public Works and other city services have instead been used to bail out irresponsible pension systems.

This is just one example of issues we should be working on together to our mutual benefit. Common efforts on LGA would be of even more importance.

As I said above, I love parks. I believe our Minneapolis Parks are an essential part of what makes Minneapolis a great place to live, work and play. I believe
the citizens of Minneapolis agree they also love their parks. But it would be a mistake to assume that because people love parks, they don’t also expect us
to be good stewards of their tax dollars. The ensuing public debate will reflect this, if this ill-advised charter amendment ends up on the ballot in November.

I hope we can set aside this amendment and instead work together to address our shared financial challenges. I look forward to that common effort.

R.T. Rybak
Mayor of Minneapolis

Rybak uses veto in attempt to rebuff Park Board's play for more fiscal turf

The following article by Steve Brandt appeared in the July 9, 2009, issue of the Star Tribune.

Rybak uses veto in attempt to rebuff Park Board’s play for more fiscal turf The Minneapolis Park Board is almost certain to override the veto as it seeks to protect parks funding.

By STEVE BRANDT, Star Tribune

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak on Wednesday vetoed a city Park Board resolution seeking a charter amendment to gain more fiscal independence, but Rybak’s penmanship likely will prove futile.

“In these times, citizens should require those of us in government to come up with solutions, not create even more chaos in an already disjointed city structure,” Rybak said after the veto. He called on park and city officials to put aside their difference and try to reach a compromise.

“Putting half-baked ideas on ballots has consequences,” Rybak said, pointing to California’s recent ballot initiatives.

The Park Board last week resolved to support a charter amendment that would declare it a separate governmental jurisdiction from City Hall, a move aimed at gaining more authority over property taxation. Some board members have begun collecting signatures for a petition to put the question on the Nov. 3 ballot.

Rybak’s veto is almost certain to be overridden by the Park Board, which traditionally blocks mayoral vetoes as an assertion of its independence.

“I don’t think there’s one person on the board who wouldn’t vote to override,” said Park Commissioner Bob Fine after a Board of Estimate and Taxation meeting that Rybak failed to attend. One of the issues between City Hall and the Park Board is a Rybak-backed charter proposal to eliminate the Board of Estimate and Taxation. It sets the maximum levy for city-level spending, and both the Park Board and mayor have a seat on the six-member taxation board, which also governs city borrowing and auditing. The Park Board fears that shifting the taxation board’s powers to the City Council, a question to be settled in a voter referendum, would leave parks underfunded.

Moreover, Rybak’s veto can’t stop efforts by individuals seeking the approximately 10,000 signatures needed from registered city voters to put a charter question on the fall ballot. There’s an Aug. 11 deadline for submitting petitions.

A Heads Up for Two Park Board Meetings

A HEADS UP FOR TWO PARK BOARD MEETINGS

LAKE HARRIET REGIONAL PARK CAC. The next meeting of the Lake Harriet Citizen’s Advisory Council (CAC) will be Monday, July 13, 2009, at 7 pm at the Linden Hills Recreation Center (3100 43rd St. W.) The CAC meetings are open to the public. For additional information about the CAC, go to http://lakeharrietcac.ning.com

REGULAR PARK BOARD MEETING. The regular MPRB meeting will be held at 5 pm on Wednesday, July 15, 2009, at Park Board Headquarters, 2117 W. River Road. This meeting will be telecast. For the meeting agenda and other information, go to the Park Board’s website http://www.minneapolisparks.org

Park Board wants 100% independence

The following article was posted on the Minneapolis Issues Forum list by Powderhorn resident Shawne FitzGerald on July 2, 2009. It poses some intriguing questions.

Park Board wants 100% independence

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board last night voted unanimously to charge ahead with seeking its own charter amendment, one that if approved would make them an entirely independent governmental unit. No more reliance on the Board of Estimate and Taxation for such things as tax levy-setting and key for Park Board commissioners no worries about whatwould happen if the City Council were to get the BET’s powers.

Park Board Commissioners pledged to start collecting petition signatures fora charter change at Powderhorn on the 4th of July. But signators won’t know what they are supporting. Where are the proposed amendments to the City Charter? More importantly, where is the draft charter or other authority for a completely independent park board?

Some at Park Watch are trying to envision a completely independent Park Board. We have a few questions. How will the new Park Board be legally organized? How many Park Board Commissioners will there be and how and when will they be elected? How will reapportionment work? Will the new MPRB eliminate at-large representation because of the negative impact of IRV on the at-large races? Or will all Park Board Commissioners be elected at-large so reapportionment is not an issue? Will Park Board Commissioner become a paid position?

With staff? What happens to the purchasing function now handled by the City of Minneapolis? What happens to the financial protections currently in the charter and ordinances? What about contract compliance and civil rights enforcement?

The City attorney also reviews certain Park Board contracts. Will the new Park Board have an in-house legal department?
The City also handles all the Park Board funds so it appears the Park Board would need a vastly expanded finance department. The City handles Park Board hiring. Will the Park Board need a new civil service department? What will the deal be with the Park Board police – they are now tied in with the MPD. What will an independent Park police forcelook like?

The stiff regulations that make it tough to sell off parkland, including the need for district court review, are in the City Charter. Will the newly constituted Park Board abide by this or is this a plan to make it easier for the Park Board to sell off land? In this charter change, will the voters be granting the Park Board taxing authority? What will this look like? What will be the constraints? (My recollection is that the MPRB Commissioners have asked for the maximum levy,about 10%, in recent years – because they knew they would be held to less by the Board of Estimate and Taxation.) What recourse will individual taxpayers have under the new system? Will this change mean that the Park Board is no longer eligible for CLIC funds?

Will all Park Board bonding go through the State? What about the role of citizens in this process? I note that the Park Board current bonding requests to the State didn’t even go through Committee, there was no chance for citizen review and input. CLIC currently provides a citizen input avenue for bonds backed by the City. In recent years, the Park Board has been weak on citizen participation: notice, review and input. What roles will citizens have in this new Park Board? Where is this written? Who is paying for the Park Board to campaign on charter changes?

The Park Board has a PAC – something like Parks Past, Present, and Future. Is the Park Board willing to voluntarily disclose on a monthly or bi-monthly basis so we can see the money behind this radical change? I understand that the Park Board fears that Ostrow’s amendment to eliminate the BET will pass and that the Park Board will then be financially strangled by the City. This has not happened yet.

With or without the Ostrow amendment, it might be a good idea to have a totally separate Park Board. This is a major decision, one that deserves planning and study. It’s too important to be lowered to the level of a popularity-based petitioning campaign at Powderhorn Park on the 4th of July. We need to see the actual charter language and any related ordinances. We deserve to know what this new government will look like. We need to know how we will be taxed and what protections are in place for our tax dollars. We ought to know if this proposal will cost more than the Park Board currently pays for admin – especially for finance, purchasing, contract compliance, legal, and police – and how this will affect current services.

Commissioners, please provide details! Please post the proposed charter amendments and all related documents online. Please give us a projected budget for the changes this new government would require.

Shawne FitzGerald, Powderhorn

Park Board tributes aren't forever

The following “Whistleblower” article appeared in the July 5, 2009 issue of the Star Tribune. It also appeared in the on-line version: “Park Board tributes aren’t forever”
JAMES ELI SHIFFER, Star Tribune

In 2002, Vivian Mason decided to memorialize her late husband Jack in a classic way — adopting a park bench by the shore of the couple’s beloved Cedar Lake in Minneapolis. Mason thought the tribute, which involved paying a fee to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board in exchange for a plaque, didn’t have an expiration date.

Then, in May of this year, she got a letter from the Foundation for Minneapolis Parks informing her that she had 30 days to decide whether to pay $1,000 to renew her tribute for five years. If she missed the deadline, she would have to pay $2,500 to renew.

Mason, 70, doesn’t remember how much she paid seven years ago to endow the wood and concrete bench. But she was in a good position to understand the terms — she was, at that time, a Minneapolis Park Board commissioner.

“I thought I had it forever,” she said.

It’s likely that many of the donors behind the 156 memorial benches in Minneapolis parks are now finding out what Mason did: the park board has revamped its tribute program with an eye on raising money.

Over the years, the amounts charged for memorial trees and benches weren’t even covering the costs of maintenance, said Michael Schmidt, general manager at the park board. In February, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board turned over its donor and tribute program to the foundation, a relatively new private fundraising organization.

Going forward, the Park Board and the foundation will split the proceeds of the tributes 50-50. So the tributes, more than ever before, will be a fundraising vehicle for the park system, which is perpetually in search of new revenue.

The cost for endowing a new bench for five years: $5,000, or $7,500 if it needs a new pad. Planting a new tree: $1,000 if the park board chooses the location, $5,000 if the donor chooses it, $7,500 for a boulevard tree. Endowing a new picnic table: $9,000 for a six-seater, $12,500 for a 10-seater. A new bike rack: $3,000.

“We’re trusting that the … price points are at an appropriate level that an individual can make this lasting memorial to someone they love, and help out the park system at the same time,” Schmidt said.

Sheila Moar, marketing and projects manager for the parks foundation, described the $2,500 bench renewal price as covering “maintenance and repair of the benches by the Park Board, and the administrative, marketing and donor interactions costs of the Minneapolis Parks Foundation. Additionally, a portion of the funds is used to support our non-profit mission of advocating, supporting and visioning for the Minneapolis parks system and open green spaces in Minneapolis.” Moar added that the donation is tax-deductible.

Mason said she was surprised that the previous cost wasn’t even covering maintenance — the bench dedicated to her husband has gotten one quick paint job over the past seven years and nothing else, she said. Today, the bench’s slats are bare in spots, and someone carved initials in one of them. But Schmidt said the park board pools the money for maintenance of all of the benches in the program, and some have high repair costs when they’re vandalized or stolen.

Mason has decided not to renew and asked for the plaque to be returned. She found the tight deadline to get the one-time cheaper price to be “completely unreasonable.”
“I’m sure with a lot of the people who bought the benches, it was really important to them,” Mason said. “It’s going to be quite a shock.” whistleblower@startribune.com