Monthly Archives: October 2009

HILL AND LAKE PRESS ELECTION ISSUE

HILL AND LAKE PRESS ELECTION ISSUE

City elections for Park Board, Mayor, City Council, and the Board of Estimate and Taxation take place on Tuesday November 3. For information about Park Board candidates, go to the Hill and Lake Press website for a special issue devoted to the election and the candidates.

http://www.hillandlakepress.com

EDITORIAL: POWER GRAB AT THE PARK BOARD

EDITORIAL: POWER GRAB AT THE PARK BOARD

The following editorial was published in the Star Tribune on October 30, 2009:

EDITORIAL: POWER GRAB AT THE PARK BOARD
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is likely to look quite different after city elections on Nov. 3. All nine seats are up for grabs. Two current commissioners are not running for reelection. The remaining seven seeking another four-year term face some of the most competitive races in years.

In its waning days in office, the current board’s priority should be arranging a respectful handoff to the newly elected board in January. Instead, some commissioners are setting up a sneaky power grab of a sort all too familiar to longtime Park Board observers.

On Nov. 4, a mere 24 hours after voters go to the polls, the current board will vote on whether to extend current Park Superintendent Jon Gurban’s contract another year. That’s a critical leadership decision the current board should not swipe from the new one.

Current Vice President Mary Merrill Anderson and former President Bob Fine, who are leading the contract extension charge, pitch this as looking out for the park system and the new board. The new commissioners will need time to get up to speed, they say. And the park system needs stable leadership to face the challenges ahead, including a national park management convention planned here next year.

But if the new board needs time, it can extend Gurban’s contract come January. An extension now serves Gurban’s interest while usurping the authority of the new board. The superintendent’s contract expires June 30. The yearlong extension would begin then, meaning he’d ultimately be in office for the next 18 months. That’s 38 percent of the term the new board will serve with a leader they may or may not like.

The new board could buy out Gurban’s extended contract and hire a new superintendent of its choice. But doing so would be costly. He’d get half a year’s pay — $70,000 — plus benefits. Commissioner Scott Vreeland estimated total buyout costs at around $100,000.
That kind of money could be put to good use spiffing up neighborhood parks or buying sports equipment for the thousands of young athletes in recreation programs.

And what is the risk of waiting two months until the new board can weigh the contract? This week, Merrill Anderson said she didn’t know if Gurban had other job offers or if he’d decline to stay on longer if needed if his contract weren’t extended right now. On Wednesday, Gurban wouldn’t respond to an editorial writer’s questions about this. Current commissioners should press for answers before Nov. 4, and Gurban had better be more forthcoming with his bosses about this basic information. Voting on the issue without it is just plain irresponsible.

Stability certainly is important for Minneapolis parks. But the system will hardly plunge into chaos if the new board decides to launch a new superintendent search as a first course of business. The park system has experienced staff and managers to guide it through a six-month to yearlong search for the next superintendent. The new commissioners are also capable of getting that search underway quickly.

The current board has done a solid job leading the system through challenging times. Its legacy shouldn’t be saddling the new commissioners with a leader not of their choosing

HEADS UP FOR A LAKE CALHOUN MEETING NOV 5

HEADS UP FOR A LAKE CALHOUN MEETING.

A public meeting which will be focusing on future planning for Lake Calhoun will be held on November 5, 2009, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m at Lyndale Farmstead Park, 3900 Bryant Ave. S. For those who are interested in Park Board planning for Lake Calhoun, this is an opportunity to be informed. So mark your calendar. And check out the Park Board’s website for more information. http://www.minneapolisparks.org

HEADS UP FOR A LAKE CALHOUN MEETING Nov 5

HEADS UP FOR A LAKE CALHOUN MEETING.

A public meeting which will be focusing on future planning for Lake Calhoun will be held on November 5, 2009, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m at Lyndale Farmstead Park, 3900 Bryant Ave. S. For those who are interested in Park Board planning for Lake Calhoun, this is an opportunity to be informed. So mark your calendar. And check out the Park Board’s website for more information. http://www.minneapolisparks.org

QUESTIONNAIRE RESPONSES FROM AT-LARGE PARK BOARD CANDIDATES

QUESTIONNAIRE RESPONSES FROM AT-LARGE PARK BOARD CANDIDATES

The following questions and answers appeared in the October 28, 2009, on-line edition of the Star Tribune:

QUESTIONNAIRE RESPONSES FROM AT-LARGE PARK BOARD CANDIDATES

(At-large candidates Bob Fine and Nancy Bernard did not respond)

ANNIE YOUNG

Email: anniey@visi.com or call 612-729-3359;

Website: http://www.annieyoung.net

Endorsements: AFSCME Council 5, Minneapolis Building and Trades COPE, Sierra Club, Green Party, Minnesota Women’s Political Caucus, Women Winning!

DAVID WAHLSTEDT

Email: daveforparks@gmail.com or call 612-281-7611,

Website: http://www.daveforparks.com

Endorsements: Independence Party, Republican Party

TOM NORDYKE

Email: tnordyke@minneapolisparks.org or call 612-802-3046

Web Site: http://www.tomnordykeforparks.com

Endorsements: DFL, AFL-CIO COPE, Building and Construction Trades

BOB FINE

(Did not respond to questionnaire)

JOHN ERWIN

Email: erwinforparks09@yahoo.com or call 612-385-6863

Website: http://www.Erwinforparks.org

Organizational Endorsements: DFL Party, DFL Latino Caucus, DFL Stonewall Caucus, DFL African American Caucus, DFL Feminist Caucus, Sierra Club, AFL-CIO (Central Labor Unions), Minneapolis Building and Trades, Teamsters, AFSCME, Unite Here Minnesota: Hospitality Division, Operating Engineers #49

JOHN BUTLER

Phone: 612-781-0035 Website: http://www.NewDignityParty.org

Endorsements: New Dignity Party

NANCY BERNARD

(Did not respond to questionnaire)

MARY MERRILL ANDERSON

Email: mary@mary4parks.org Website: http://www.mary4parks.org

Endorsements: DFL, DFL Feminist Caucus, DFL African American Caucus, Stonewall DFL, DFL Latin Caucus. Labor – AFSCME, Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation (AFL-CIO), MPEA, womenwinning State PAC

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What’s one burning issue that’s prompted you to run for this position (25 words)

Young: Provide a responsive change to meet the needs of the users of the Park system by returning to listening to citizens and encouraging grassroots activism.

Wahlstedt: We need more public-private partnerships like the restaurants at the Calhoun and Minnehaha pavilions that bring people out, add life, and generate revenue.

Nordyke: The most burning problem for the MPRB is finding a solution to the capital and infrastructure crisis facing our parks.

Erwin: I want to proactively and collaboratively work to harness the creativity and energy of Minneapolis residents to make our generation’s unique contribution to our Park System.

Butler: Being a senior citizen myself, I want to participate in bringing more senior-friendly activities to the park system.

Anderson: I am passionate about Parks and Recreation. I know that our quality of life in Minneapolis is directly related to the benefits of a high quality Park & Recreation system. I believe that an independent and elected Park Board is the best way of protecting and managing the Minneapolis Park & Recreation System.

Should the contract of the current Superintendent, Jon Gurban, be renewed or should the Park Board begin a search for a new Superintendent? Explain your reasoning (100 words)

Young: A new search should begin looking for a person who can implement the Comprehensive and Sustainability plans developed this last 2 years with an eye to finding those who want to make change and improve the way the Park Board meets the new challenges facing the City of Minneapolis and its residents. Communications and respect for community work needs to be recognized in a more positive manner by leadership in the organization. We seem to be making lots of different constituencies mad at us; this just cannot be if we want to have people love their parks.

Wahlstedt: Since many board members are likely to be new each time a superintendent’s contract is up for renewal, we owe it to the citizens of Minneapolis to do a thorough performance review each time a to determine whether it is time for a new superintendent. We need to get 360-degree feedback – from neighborhoods, from staff, from Board and former Board members, and from peers in the industry. Then we owe it to the superintendent to discuss all that feedback with them before making our decision on renewal.

Nordyke: The Superintendent has had a good tenure at the Park Board and made his mark in a very positive way, having adroitly steered the institution through the past four years of extreme financial stress. The MPRB is in fairly good financial condition – certainly relative to the City – and that has a great deal to do with Mr. Gurban’s leadership. Having said that, the era of Superintendents serving for 30 years has passed. I think we can honor the current Superintendent’s service, but also look to the future and see 2010 as a year of transition.

Erwin: I honor the dedication and accomplishments of the current Superintendent. His commitment to the Park System is clear and admirable. Having said this, I believe the changes that need to be made to our Park System will require new skill sets and new leadership at the Staff level. Therefore, I am in favor of initiating a search for a new Superintendent that would possess many, if not all, of the skills I believe will be necessary for the growth and sustainability of our Park System including experience with grant writing and management, Foundation development, public engagement facilitation, and innovative park programming.

Butler: Despite some criticism, I favor retaining supervisor Gurban. The last search, five years ago, took a year, resulting in Gurban’s “temporary” appointment Let’s bite the bullet, give Gurban greater job security, and see what he does. Part of the problem is the Park Board itself.

Anderson: The Park Board Commissioners are in the process of evaluating the performance of the superintendent and developing the process and timeline for determining whether or not to extend the current contract. I believe that the Board needs to complete this work with our employee before we comment on this issue.

The Park Board has been attempting to work with City Hall for several years to legislate a park dedication fee, which many suburbs require. Do you favor or oppose such a fee that would require a developer to provide money or land for park purposes when a development happens? Why? (100 words)

Young: I support the fee because I believe Minneapolis is a park that has a city within it. And so all residents, businesses and institutions must treat its City and park with the care and stewardship are needed to keep this a great City to live in. Therefore, trees, green space and other natural amenities should be part of the infrastructure needs when developing projects in the City.

Wahlstedt: I would oppose this as an unnecessary complication when it comes to park funding. Further, I don’t believe it is fair to make new users of the parks pay an “entry fee” into the park system – which is what this amounts to. The rest of us all “pay as we go” and so should new residents. The property taxes from the new developments cover their fair share of park costs. New land can be acquired as needed in other ways. We don’t need further barriers to housing and business development in the city.

Nordyke: I did not vote to support the fee, but once it passed and I became President, I have been one of the principal architects of the ordinance. It is similar to the fees charged in most neighboring cities, including St. Paul. It should be implemented as soon as possible.

Erwin: I favor a park dedication fee. Minneapolis has an emphasis on providing parks, green spaces, athletic facilities and biking and walking trails to its’ citizens. Increased development results in increased park needs and use. The existing tax-based support does not support current operating costs, therefore, monies needed for additional park/facility acquisition is limited. If this fee was in place, would the MPRB have purchased Block E as a Minneapolis Central Park? Would MPRB be able to purchase other downtown property to proactively develop future neighborhood parks? A park dedication fee allows flexibility to develop such amenities where new development is occurring citywide.

Butler: No, I am not in favor of ordinances that micromanage land use and development Judge both development proposals and acquisition of land for the Minneapolis park system on their own merits. Why tie the two together?

Anderson: I strongly believe in the Park Dedication fee as a tried and true method in Minnesota especially in metro area suburbs for acquiring and developing parkland. When development occurs it creates a demand for more parkland or puts greater pressure on existing park resources, requiring greater maintance and financial resources. If we had a Park Dedication fee over the last 2 decades, many of the critical issues facing our neighborhood parks would be alleviated and the need for downtown parks would be resolved.

Do you support or oppose the proposed charter amendment that would grant greater independence to the Park Board? Why? (50 words)

Young: Although I reached consensus with my fellow Commissioners that something needed to happen I am not clear if this was the correct and best way to go about garnering our greater independence.

Wahlstedt: I oppose it at this time pending the outcome of the charter amendment mentioned below. If that fails, then I believe we should bolster the independence of the Board of Estimate with a greater number of elected representatives (3 more to make a majority) and otherwise keep the existing structure.

Nordyke: I did support it. Modeling the Park Board’s future governance after the current Three Rivers Park District makes good sense and would go a long way toward better working relationship with the City of Minneapolis.

Erwin: I support an independent MPRB as has existed for 126 years. I do not support an increased ability of City Council or the Mayor to regulate the MPRB. However, although I strongly support an independent Park Board, I do not support the ballot initiative that was circulated in July and August that would grant ‘yet to be identified’ powers to the MPRB.

Butler: No, a judge has ruled this proposal to be unconstiturional. Only the state legislature can create new governmental entities.

Anderson: I strongly support this amendment. I strongly believe that it is important to the preservation of our Park System as we know it to have an independent and elected Board accountable to the citizenry for preserving, protecting and providing Park programs and services.

Do you support or oppose the proposed charter amendment that would remove the Park Board representative from the city’s Board of Estimate and Taxation, and have the board’s powers assumed by the City Council? Why? (100 words)

Young: I am opposed to this ballot question. I would have much preferred if the voters were changing the BET to add another Park Board individual in order to maintain 7 members on the Board and continue serving as a check and balance in our system of government.

Wahlstedt: I strongly oppose this amendment. This would gut the independence of the Park Board by giving the city total control of park funding and eliminate any need for the city to consider the perspective of the Park Board in its decisions. We need to go the other direction and *reduce* the near-total control the council and mayor currently have over the BET. The checks and balances the BET provides are much more important than any “efficiency” gained by letting the city council take it over.

Nordyke: I do not support the City Council’s attempt to gain unchecked taxing authority by taking over the Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET). The BET was designed to be a check and balance against that danger – a City Council taxing and issuing debt at will with no limits. By taking over the BET the City Council will assume powers it was never intended to have and that no other City in the State has. Having the current BET set tax policy is far preferable to leaving it in the hand of a City Council majority.

Erwin: The loss of the Library Board Seat on the BET and refilling of that seat with a City Council member creates the potential for a biased BET. The Mayor’s and City Council’s concern about accountability in tax policy between them and the public and their concern about elected BET members, who may not be as familiar with City financing making tax policy decisions, are valid. I see two solutions: 1) increase the size of the BET with elected officials that are neither from the City Council or Park Board with greater access to city finances, OR 2) eliminate the BET AND have a property tax agreement (as mentioned immediately above) to not allow City Council or Mayor to have undo influence over the MPRB budget. The existing ballot initiative does not address either of these options. Therefore, I do not support this Charter amendment.

Butler: I oppose the charter amendment to remove the Park Board representative from the Board of Estimate and Taxation because that board checks the power of the city council to raise revenues and the Minneapolis park system needs a seat at the table.

Anderson: I oppose the changes to the Board of Estimate & Taxation. This Board serves many important functions, protecting the taxpayer, providing for important dialogue and dealing with the differing tax isssues of the Park Board and the City. In fact I advocate for adding an elected member to the Board replacing the Library Board. If the City Council becomes the Board of Estimate & Taxation (which I feel may have some legal issues), the Park Board just becomes an advisory board to the city council.

How would you work with the city and other parties to move forward the parks component of the 10-year-old Above the Falls plan for development of the city’s upper riverfront, and what park improvements there would be your priorities (100 words)

Young: We need to continue to improve its water quality and work on environmental restoration of the river banks. We need to work together through the new Riverfront Development Corporation to improve the River both for the region and neighborhoods along the river. Both active and leisure activities should be developed. We have done a great job at North Mississippi Regional Park – we need to continue our efforts whenever possible.

Wahlstedt: I think we need to establish a strong private-funding component of this effort before moving forward with it. The first step would be to finally establish the non-profit Upper River Redevelopment Corporation called for in the plan and to partner with and model the organization after groups like the Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota. If the plan has the ability to inspire significant charitable contributions that will be a signal that it truly has enthusiastic public support, and will also be a key component in making it viable.

Nordyke: We have worked with the City to partner in the formation of the Minneapolis Riverfront Corporation, which I think will have a substantial impact on moving the Above the Falls Plan forward. The Park Board should focus on the acquisition of land as it becomes available. Our immediate priority should be to complete the Sheridan Veterans’ Memorial Park.

Erwin: It is easy for any land use plan to not be implemented unless it is continuously used as a ‘measuring stick’ from which purchasing and zoning decisions are made. I would work within the MPRB and with the Mayor and City Council to prioritize the Above the Falls Plan; I did this while on the MPRB. Specifically, I would prioritize 1) land acquisition along the river, 2) developing a zoning policy that would require a ‘set-back’ to allow for a parkway along the river, and 3) help develop a unique citywide vision for land use on the upper and lower riverfront to increase use of and accessibility to this area. These priorities address most of the objectives of the plan.

Butler: The “Above the Falls” plan creates additional park land on the west side of the Mississippi river, connecting with various pedestrian and bike trails. I would consider adding canoe facilities to the mix. Let urban residents rent canoes on the Mississippi river and use the new park as a terminus for a shuttle between two locations.

Anderson: I support the Above the Falls master plan. The most important component is to acquire the land which would allow for the completion of the Above the Falls master plan and the completion of the Riverfront acquisition of land to complete the more than 100 year old plan to have public ownership and access to the riverfront and provide parity between South and North/Northeast Minneapolis. Because land acquisition will be a long process, I believe we should focus also on the development and finishing of the trail system on both sides of the river where we currently own land.

What’s one specific city-wide accomplishment you’d like to make happen by the end of your term? (25 words)

Young: Be well on our way with steps to developing renewable energy resources in order to get off the grid within 10 years.

Wahlstedt: Five new public-private partnerships with local businesses to generate revenue in the parks and/or on park property.

Nordyke: I would like to see all of the Parkways repaved.

Erwin: Start a ‘Green’ Minneapolis effort to increase plantings on public and private lands and waterways, establish a citywide network of ‘garden routes’ and parkways, increase community gardens, install new sustainable neighborhood sports fields, and integrate solar and recycling into parks.

Butler: The canoe shuttle would top my wish list.

Anderson: There are many things which I believe need to be accomplished or started over the next 4 years. I would like to have a sustainability plan for the Neighborhood Park & Recreation system which would includes the passage of a Park Dedication ordinance and a Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board that remains Elected & Independent.

CANDIDATE'S EXPERIENCE, FOOTWORK, CLOUT DISTINGUISH NOKOMIS CONTEST

CANDIDATE’S EXPERIENCE, FOOTWORK, CLOUT DISTINGUISH NOKOMIS CONTEST

The following article by Steve Brandt appeared in the October 28, 2009, issue of the Star Tribune:

CANDIDATE’S EXPERIENCE, FOOTWORK, CLOUT DISTINGUISH NOKOMIS CONTEST
It’s coming down to a test of shoe leather against political muscle against experience in the Minneapolis Park Board district centered on Lake Nokomis.

Carol Kummer has experience after serving six years on the Park Board. But it’s a post she wasn’t planning to run for again until the candidate she supported dropped out of the race for health reasons.

There’s political muscle behind Jason Stone, who nearly beat Kummer in 2005. He claims support from Mayor R.T. Rybak and a majority of the City Council.

Steve Barland is using shoe leather to try to leverage his background as a longtime youth coach. He’s putting in the most hours, peddling his message door-to-door. Though the political neophyte of the bunch, Barland raised more money this year than his two opponents combined by Sept. 1. Much of it came from parents of the kids he’s coached.

The race also includes Dan W. Peterson and McClain Looney, but neither has made much of an impression.

The seat is one of six district seats and includes such areas as Minnehaha Falls and the creek that feeds it, and Pearl Park. All three candidates said they oppose a proposed charter amendment to substitute the City Council for the current membership of the city’s Board of Estimate and Taxation, fearing the effect on parks.

In 2003 the Park Board appointed Kummer, 69, a retired state worker who was a Metropolitan Council member for 20 years, to fill the seat emptied by the death of Ed Solomon. Barland, 53, was among seven finalists considered to fill that vacancy. He began coaching in high school and eventually coached boys and girls in five sports. He waited to run for the board until Kummer said she wouldn’t. In 2005 she edged Stone with just 51 percent of the vote.

Stone, 38, served on the city’s capital budgeting committee and the advisory committee for the Park Board’s comprehensive plan and says he’s expanded his knowledge of municipal affairs. He said his background as a manager, formerly for a bank and now for a nonprofit, gives him valuable skills for the board. He offers himself as a conciliator in the fractious relations between the board and City Council. In a race where the DFL failed to endorse, he snared the biggest labor endorsement, which went to Kummer four years ago.

He faults Kummer for jumping back into the race, but she said she’s a problem-solver who is passionate about parks. She cited talks she and Council Member Sandra Colvin Roy have initiated to resolve the issue of applying city storm water fees to park property. She said she’d like to look for ways to raise park revenues, as the board did with the Sea Salt restaurant at Minnehaha, rather than make budget cuts.

Barland said maintaining youth programs and keeping rec centers open are his top priority. He’s running a K-3 basketball skills camp right after the election. He’s a customer service representative for a furniture store. He said a proposed requirement that developers give land or money shouldn’t be imposed during a recession.

With voters asked this year to rank their choices, only Stone expressed a definite preference for a No. 2 choice: Barland.

RANKED-CHOICE PIVOTAL FOR PARK BOARD

RANKED-CHOICE PIVOTAL FOR PARK BOARD

The following article by Steve Brandt appeared in the October 28, 2009, issue is the Star Tribune:

RANKED-CHOICE PIVOTAL FOR PARK BOARD
Minneapolis’ new ranked-choice voting system will play a crucial role in winnowing a field of seven candidates to the three who will serve as citywide representatives on the city’s Park and Recreation Board.

The list includes citywide incumbents Mary Merrill Anderson, Tom Nordyke and Annie Young, plus Bob Fine, a board member who is seeking a citywide seat after being denied DFL endorsement for reelection to his southwest Minneapolis seat. John Erwin, who served one term on the board and sat out one term for family reasons, wants back in. Dave Wahlstedt is seeking a seat with Republican and Independence party endorsements. Also running is John Butler.

The new voting system will be critical, because unlike years past, voters won’t get three equal votes to cast. Instead, they will rank one candidate as their first choice, another as their second choice, and one more as their third.

All first-choice votes will be counted, and any candidate who gets more than 25 percent support in the first round will be elected. If fewer than three candidates reach that threshold, the second or third choices will come into play.

Candidates who receive the fewest first-choice votes will be dropped from the count, and the second choices on those ballots will be awarded to the remaining candidates. In addition, if any candidates reach the winning threshold, there is a distribution of their “surplus” support — that is, votes exceeding the number needed to be elected. The next choices on ballots cast for those candidates are awarded on a fractional basis to the remaining candidates. Rounds will continue until three candidates are elected.

Based on endorsements, fundraising and effort, Erwin may be the candidate to beat. The horticulture prof wants to return to the board after leading the citizen committee that devised a route for completing the Grand Rounds parkway system on the city’s East Side. He won DFL endorsement along with current board President Nordyke and Merrill Anderson, a former park superintendent.

Young, as in past races, is Green Party endorsed. Fine has proven his ability to win in the past without party endorsement and has lots of youth sports contacts, especially in vote-rich southwest precincts, from 34 years of coaching.

One thing on which candidates agreed at a recent voter forum is that they oppose this fall’s proposed charter amendment that would revamp the makeup of the city’s Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET), which sets taxes, borrows money and audits city functions. The proposal would give these duties to the City Council alone. One of that board’s six members is a representative of the Park Board, whose members feel the proposal would lead to a gutting of park finances.

Instead, Merrill Anderson and Erwin want to see a third publicly elected member added to the BET, while Young favors that or having a second Park Board representative on it.
Wahlstedt advocates three new publicly elected BET members. Fine prefers adding a park commissioner to the BET, but said he’d settle for a third public member. Nordyke said he’d rather have three council leaders setting taxes through the BET than giving that job to the council majority.

The field is split on the issue of whether to rehire Parks Superintendent Jon Gurban or look for a replacement when his contract expires in mid-2010. Fine supports him, Young, Erwin and Nordyke want a new superintendent, and Wahlstedt and Merrill Anderson say the board needs to follow its processes.

The board also has been working for years with the City Council on a proposal to require developers to donate land or money for park development when they do projects, something many suburbs do. All but Wahlstedt favor it; he said that it would pose a barrier to development and that property taxes from development, and not what he terms an entry fee, should fund parks.

Several candidates, particularly Fine and Merrill Anderson, told a recent voter forum that a top priority for them is to keep recreation centers open in neighborhood parks, especially with St. Paul sliding from 41 city-run youth centers to a possible 25 such centers next year. Wahlstedt pushed for developing outside partnerships with entrepreneurs to help make that happen.

Neighborhood staffer Young is seeking her sixth term on the board. Lawyer Fine is seeking his fourth. Nordyke, who works for a nonprofit housing developer, is seeking his second term, as are Merrill Anderson and Erwin.

PARK BOARD AT LARGE: Voter's Guide 2009

PARK BOARD AT LARGE: Voter’s Guide 2009

The following article by Cristof Traudes appeared in the October 19, 2009, issue of the Southwest Journal:

PARK BOARD AT LARGE: Voter’s Guide 2009

While the independence of the Park Board has been one of the hottest city government topics this year, there are other issues facing the parks system. Just ask the candidates for the three at-large Park Board seats.

Each of the incumbents is calling sustainability a top priority. The board recently adopted a sustainability report, and it plans to move ahead with goals such as becoming the city’s hub for all things green.

Current board President Tom Nordyke also wants to continue along the same lines he’s followed since being first elected four years ago: focus on stabilizing the fiscal health of the Park Board and improve the relationship between the parks and the city — although he admits the independence initiative might have severely damaged some relationships.

Current Vice President Mary Merrill Anderson has the oldest direct connection to the Park Board of any candidate, starting as a parks employee in 1972 and eventually working all the way up to superintendent. Children are a top priority, she said, as well as accessibility for people of all backgrounds.

Commissioner Annie Young, meanwhile, holds the longest on-going streak of Park Board membership. She’s seeking her sixth straight term, during which she said her priorities would include protecting open space, equal access and expanding recreational opportunities.

Those three face an interesting group of opponents, including a fellow incumbent commissioner (District 6’s Bob Fine), a former commissioner only four years removed from his last term (John Erwin) and three newcomers (David Wahlstedt, Nancy Bernard and John Butler).

Fine decided to jump to the citywide race, he said, because his No. 1 priority is the financial independence of the Park Board — less a district issue than one for the whole city. He also wants to mitigate the influence of groups such as watchdogs Park Watch. If he wins, it would be his second term as an at-large commissioner. He previously served citywide from 1998-2001.

Erwin, also a former at-large commissioner, decided to forego a reelection bid four years ago to focus on family. He’s back now, and his priorities include expanding parks’ options to seniors, increasing recreation centers’ community service offerings and planting more trees. He also wants to improve the relationship between the Park Board and the city, something he worked on during his previous stint on the board. He is endorsed by many of the city’s politicians, including Mayor R.T. Rybak and much of the City Council.

Wahlstedt, meanwhile, has been trying to break into the Park Board dialogue. He said he has an entrepreneurial spirit that the board can use to deal with its ever-worsening finances. He comes with just a few specific ideas himself, but he said it’s most important that the board open up to suggestions. That would lead to plenty of bad proposals, he said, perhaps lots of them — but from hundreds of bad proposals could come three, four or a dozen good ones that could alleviate the financial pains.

Bernard’s goals are simpler: She just wants to find ways to draw people back to the parks. People near her Northeast home don’t seem to use the city’s green space anywhere near as much as people did when she was younger, Bernard said.

Butler said he mostly likes what he sees in the current parks system, but he would like improvements in services for seniors. He also said the parks could cut costs by relying more on volunteers — although, being a frequent volunteer himself, he knows that’s not always the easiest route.

A forum featuring seven of the above candidates was held Oct. 20. Click here for an overview of candidate responses.
THE CANDIDATES
Mary Merrill Anderson
Phone: 229-9709
E-mail: mary4parks@yahoo.com
Website: mary4parks.org

Nancy Bernard
Phone: 378-1813
E-mail: nbernard52@yahoo.com

John Butler
Phone: 781-0035
Website: newdignityparty.org

John Erwin
Phone: 385-6863
E-mail: erwinforparks09@yahoo.com
Website: erwinforparks.org

Bob Fine
Phone: 922-6992
E-mail: fineparks@yahoo.com

Tom Nordyke
Phone: 802-3046
E-mail: nordyketom@aol.com

David Wahlstedt
Phone: 281-7611

Annie Young
Phone: 783-3359
E-mail: anniey@visi.com
Website: annieyoung.net

PARK BOARD DISTRICT 4: Voter's Guide 2009

PARK BOARD DISTRICT 4: Voter’s Guide 2009

The following article by Cristof Traudes appeared in the October 19, 2009, issue of the Southwest Journal:

PARK BOARD DISTRICT 4: Voter’s Guide 2009

Anita Tabb is the only uncontested candidate in the entire city and has all but officially won the seat currently held by Commissioner Tracy Nordstrom.

“I’m delighted,” said Tabb, a newcomer to politics.

Even before her campaign, Tabb was a sometimes outspoken critic of Park Board transparency. After attending “almost 90 percent” of board meetings over the past two years as a constituent, she said now seemed like a good time to get officially involved.

“I’m just at the point in my life where I have the time to do this,” Tabb said.

She’s a resident of Lowry Hill and has been an activist for equal rights, women’s rights and the environment.

District 4 covers Southwest north of Lake Street plus the East Calhoun neighborhood.

Anita Tabb
Age: 58
Occupation: full-time candidate
Neighborhood: Lowry Hill
Experience: frequently attends Park Board meetings; member, Lowry Hill Neighborhood Association
Endorsements: DFL, AFSCME, Feminist DFL Caucus, AFL-CIO, Sierra Club, Stonewall DFL
Website: anitatabb.com
Phone: 377-6926
E-mail: anita@anitatabb.com

PARK BOARD DISTRICT 3: Voter's Guide 2009

PARK BOARD DISTRICT 3: Voter’s Guide 2009

The following article by Cristof Traudes appeared in the October 26, 2009, issue of the Downtown Journal:

PARK BOARD DISTRICT 3: Voter’s Guide 2009

The District 3 race, which will decide who represents much of the city’s riverfront, features two candidates who live on the same side of the Mississippi. One, however, lives Downtown. The other lives down the river.

Incumbent Commissioner Scott Vreeland is the down-river, Seward resident. He is a passionate representative of the river and West River Parkway, as well as the environment.

He has been an active voice in the fight to keep the Park Board from losing its position on the Board of Estimate and Taxation. He argued at several meetings earlier this year for retaining that board as is, and he proposed adding a seventh member so that city representatives wouldn’t make up half of the board’s membership.

Challenger Mike Wendorf is a visible member of Downtown’s real estate scene. He is vice president of the Sherman Group, which specializes in renovating historic Downtown buildings. He is an active runner and tennis player, and his home overlooks St. Anthony Falls.

He has management skills he says will help with the Park Board’s financial situation. The Riverwest Condominium Association, of which he is president, has a $1.5 million budget.
District 3 covers much of Downtown, as well as South Minneapolis between Interstate 35W and the Mississippi River north of about 35th Street.

Scott Vreeland
Occupation: Park Board commissioner
Neighborhood: Seward
Experience: one term, Park Board; chairman, Park Board’s finance committee; NRP Policy Board; co-chairman, Minneapolis Riverfront Corporation
Website: scottvreeland.org
Phone: 721-7892
E-mail: svattheriver@aol.com

Mike Wendorf
Occupation: vice president, Sherman Group
Neighborhood: Downtown West
Experience: president, Riverwest Condominium Association; real estate development, specializing in renovating historic Downtown buildings
Website: wendorfforparks.com
Phone: 340-0509, ext. 11
E-mail: wendorfforparks@me.com