Ostrow Letter Urges Delay on MOU

The following letter was sent to MPRB Commissioners on December 3, 2014 by Paul Ostrow urging commissioners to delay their vote on the MOU.  Unfortunately, they did not do so:


I cannot adequately express my profound disappointment with the actions you plan on taking tonight.  I fear the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board will now add its name to the dubious list of public entities that have betrayed the public trust as it relates to the new Vikings stadium and surrounding development.  I also fear that MPRB is repeating the beyond closed doors, too sensitive for the public philosophy in throwing this agreement on the agenda at the last minute.  This is not what any of you ran on when you faced the voters.

I have been busy all day fulfilling my professional responsibilities to my current employer.  I assume every other resident of Minneapolis has similarly had no ability to understand or be adequately informed as to the action you take tonight.  With all due respect, I have serious doubts that any of you fully understand the implications either.

One thing is quite clear – with the approval of this document the MPRB now becomes a party to an agreement that turns over a property acquired at taxpayers expense to the Vikings without charge and further allows that same property to be used by the Vikings to the detriment of the public.  This is your agreement now and you can no longer point the fingers at others.

I recognize that off the record some of you have indicated that you must agree with this proposal for fear of reprisals from City Hall.  I am not in a position to judge whether that is the reality.  I only know that once you approve this agreement you will own this debacle that further subsidizes the Vikings and makes a mockery of the public park system.

I can only assume that through the legal gimmick of buying the land for $1 and leasing it back to the City that both the MPRB and the City Council  are receiving legal advice that this agreement now complies with the charter.  Isn’t it sad that our debates on important issues now rest upon fancy legal opinions and clever drafting of “memorandums of understanding?”  Whether or not such a dubious agreement would pass legal muster there can be no doubt as to your complicity in overriding the clear intent of the charter.

I acknowledge of course that I raised the issue of the independence of the park board in a very public manner in 2009.  What you are showing, however, is that you are not independent in any event – that you will bow to political pressure rather than standing on principle and standing with the public.

At a bare minimum I would hope you would ask your legal counsel the following questions before acting on this proposal tonight:

1)  Are any agreements entered into regarding the use of the proposed park enforceable if not approved by the MPRB?

2)  In the absence of the MOU how does the City establish compliance with the Charter as clearly interpreted by Judge Dickstein in January 2014?

I do thank each of you for the work that you do.  I regret if this e-mail seems overly severe or harsh but I trust my opinions on this issue will not come as a surprise to any of you.