Response to 2/20 Southwest Journal Article


The following is a letter-to-the-editor responding to the article by Nick Halter in the February 20 issue of the Southwest Journal about employee criticisms of the Park Board. The letter has been posted on the Southwest Journal’s online edition.

Dear Editor,

As a co-founder of Park Watch, I read with interest the February 20 article about employee criticisms of the Park Board. Yes, we have also been aware of MPRB employee dissatisfaction; but, as quoted in Superintendent Miller’s memo to employees, “many of the deficiencies and issues noted are not new but have been present for years.”

In the years prior to Superintendent Miller’s arrival, there were many stories about long time employees who mysteriously disappeared from their positions at the Park Board. There is the one story about an employee who simply went in on a weekend, emptied his/her desk and resigned.

The current administration inherited a dysfunctional organization that was known for its tactics of intimidation and retaliation. As for Commissioner Bob Fine’s comment that Superintendent Miller’s memo “unfairly places the blame on former Superintendent Jon Gurban,” I refer readers to a City Pages article entitled “Angry Management” that was extremely critical of the former superintendent. The March 3, 2010 article can be found on the Park Watch website at . This is the first paragraph of the article:

“When the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board voted last month not to rehire its top employee, park superintendent Jon Gurban, it marked the beginning of the end for one of the city’s most controversial public officials. For six years, Gurban has kept the park board in near-constant tumult, drawing fire from critics for an inexplicable inability to work with the public and a hair-trigger temper that has made him the first target of anyone hoping to see change in the park board.”

Radical change does not happen overnight; we have observed recent staff hirings that indicate Superintendent Miller is serious about her role in transforming the Park Board.

We believe that her contracting with a consulting firm to conduct an organizational analysis of the MPRB demonstrates her intention to foster positive changes within the Park Board and the community it serves by implementing a proactive strategy to address and resolve long-standing problems.

Arlene Fried

Co-founder of Park Watch