Welcome to the new Park Watch website. We hope that you will find the new format easier to read and to use. To facilitate navigating the website, there is a search feature and an index of topics.
In addition to the current postings, the new website includes ALL the postings from the old website beginning with January 2004. With ten years of postings, the Park Watch website presents a valuable perspective on a critical period in the Park Board’s history.
ABOUT PARK WATCH
Park Watch was founded by five concerned Minneapolis residents in early 2004 after the MPRB, on a 5-4 vote, hired as superintendent Jon Gurban, who had not applied for or interviewed for the position. The five were Arlene Fried, Mary Lou Hill, Chris Johnson, Steve Nelson and Liz Wielinski. They vowed to keep the Park Board and Park Board issues above the radar by attending every Park Board meeting.
The Gurban era was a difficult one. There was a lack of transparency, a lack of citizen participation and a lack of administrative accountability. And there were anger management problems. “Angry Management” was the title of an article by reporter Emily Kaiser, which was published in the March 3, 2010 issue of City Pages and chronicled incidents of angry outbursts by Superintendent Gurban.
Park Watch’s goal was to establish transparency and increase both citizen participation and administrative accountability. We wanted to know what was really happening and we wanted the public to know what was really happening. For starters, one of the founding members, Chris Johnson, set up the Park Watch website and Park Watch attended every Park Board meeting. At the time, the meetings were not televised so Chris Johnson and Liz Wielinski took extensive meeting notes and posted them on the Park Watch website. Those early minutes still exist on the website. Steve Nelson had a video camera and he video-taped the meetings.
We also started submitting data requests to obtain background information on contracts and other Park Board matters. We scrutinized legal bills. And, because minutes were not yet posted on-line, we went to the Park Board on Friday afternoons at 3:30 p.m. when the meeting agendas were made public so we could review in advance the topics to be discussed and/or acted on at Wednesday’s meeting.
When important topics surfaced, we issued press releases to media representatives and posted Park Watch commentaries on the Park Watch website. We would speak at Open Time.
As a result of Park Watch’s efforts, the composition of the Park Board changed. In 2009 Anita Tabb and Liz Wielinski, members of Park Watch, won seats on the Park Board. They joined four other Park Board commissioners who had Park Watch support. The 2009 election resulted in a new majority on the Park Board.
With the new majority on the Board, Superintendent Gurban’s contract was not renewed and he was replaced by Superintendent Jayne Miller in 2011. Since then there have been many improvements.
Citizen participation in the form of citizen advisory committees (CAC’s) is now a regular part of the planning process. Transparency has improved. For example, Park Board Permits and Planning Schedules are now included with the meeting agendas and are available to the public on a routine basis.
Meeting agendas are posted on the Park Board website on the Friday before PB meetings; and Park Watch posts a Heads Up agenda summary prior to Park Board meetings. Park Board meetings are televised and can be viewed on Minneapolis cable television Channel 79.
Another significant event occurred in 2014 with the election of Park Board officers. Ten years after co-founding Park Watch and with an almost perfect 10-year Park Board attendance record, LIz Wielinski was unanimously elected MPRB President.
VIEWING PARK BOARD MEETINGS ON CABLE TV AND ON-LINE
View Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board meetings live from 5-9 p.m. on the Minneapolis Government Meeting Channel 79 on Comcast Cable. You may also view live meetings online on the Channel 79 webpage: http://www.minneapolismn.gov/tv/79
Regular meetings are typically re-telecast on Channel 79 on Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. and on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month at 5 p.m. Telecast schedules are subject to change.
Webcasts of MPRB regular board meetings are posted on the MPRB website two to five business days following each meeting and are available for viewing, along with webcasts for the recent two months, at http://minneapolisparksmn.iqm2.com/Citizens/Default.aspx. Board meeting agendas and related information are posted on the same web page two business days prior to meetings.
The Park Board’s website is www.minneapolisparks.org. The phone number is 612-230-6400.
Co-Founder of Park Watch