Ostrow: No Agreements on ‘The Yard’

The following letter, dated June 10, 2014, by Minneapolis resident and former City Council Member Paul Ostrow was published in the Southwest Journal:

It is not too late — there are no agreements

Kudos to David Brauer for his outstanding reporting: http://www.journalmpls.com/voices/voices/downtown-easts-yard-gets-increasingly-privatized on the extent of the private use of “the Yard.”  Mr. Brauer, however, joins in the mistake virtually every reporter has made in covering this debate. Contrary to press coverage, there are no legally binding agreements as to the ownership, use or operation of “the Yard.” In fact, there are no binding agreements that “the Yard” will be a park at all. There are no binding legal agreements because a necessary party to all those agreements — the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board — has not agreed to anything.

In his rulings issued in December 2013 Judge Mel Dickstein was unequivocal in his conclusion that the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has the exclusive authority to “own, operate and maintain” parks in the City. The only reason that he denied the Plaintiffs’ request for an injunction was that both the City Attorney and MPRB attorney assured the judge in open court that the parties were working well together and that the MPRB was in favor of the project.  For this reason and for this reason alone Judge Dickstein considered the litigation premature.

It is remarkable and troubling that even following the Court’s unambiguous ruling the Mayor and City Council entered into an agreement in February purporting to govern the use of “the Yard.”  The good news for the public is that we really can have a “do over” — we can go back to square one.

This time let’s get it right.  We need a new agreement that requires the Vikings to reimburse the public for a substantial portion of the diverted parking ramp revenues from municipal ramps and ensures the greatest possible public use of “the Yard.”