John Erwin’s Reflections on the 12/17 Mpls. Park Board Meeting

The following item was submitted by MPRB Commissioner-at-Large John Erwin to on December 21, 2014.  Commissioner Erwin is a resident of Seward.  The agenda subject being discussed at the meeting and referred to here was the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the City and the Park Board and Bird Safe Glass.

I would like to personally express my appreciation to everyone who took their time to write me, and/or took time to come to the Park Board meeting the other night.  A special thanks to those who spoke.  I appreciated all your comments and took them all very seriously.  Your commitment and passion is commendable and is very much appreciated.  As an environmentalist, and a biologist by profession, I am very concerned for bird safety as many others.

This was a difficult decision for all the Commissioners.  I believe every Commissioner would like to force the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority to install ‘bird-safe’ glass.  Yet, it was very, very clear that the Park Board does not have the leverage to force them to do so.  Either the two City Council members or the three Governor’s appointees on the MSFA (5 total) have the authority to make this decision and have repeatedly chosen to ignore  public requests for ‘bird-safe’ glass.  Park Board Counsel repeatedly said this. . . . . I asked him this question at least twice during the meeting, and received a very clear ‘No’.

Should the Park Board have voted ‘No’, I believe the following would have occurred:

1) The City, Ryan, and the Vikings would have continued to construct their facilities. . . . . I know of no one who believes that construction would have stopped on any of the projects – Counsel agreed with this during the meeting,

2) The Park Board would have refused to accept and protect a needed 2 block green park that will serve many new residents who live nearby,

3) the Park Board would have undermined its own long-term authority in the Charter by refusing to own/manage a city Park,

4) as Comm. Vreeland stated above, the Park Board would have likely had to sue the City for Park ownership (to what end) after the facilities were constructed (without bird-safe glass) at public expense to the City and Park Board,  and

5) the Park Board would have given up any leverage to impact the Park design, and ability to insist on public input on that design – which the Park Board has insisted on already.  My conclusions are also based on nearly two years of meetings and court room hearings related to this project that I went to.

Given all the facts, I voted ‘Yes’.  I appreciate that some disagree with that decision, but I believe it was the right one. I appreciate everyone’s frustration with this project – I personally, have many, many concerns.  Nonetheless, I am working to move forward and make this a safe and enjoyable area for humans and wildlife.  I also reiterate that the Park Board, itself, is not using public resources to build this park – we will when the park is 100% public in 30, or 50 years.