Minneapolis’ Neighborhood Park Referendum/Mayor Veto

The following item by Carol Becker was posted on February 3, 2016 on http://forums.e-democracy.org/groups/mpls

Minneapolis’  Neighborhood Park Referendum/Mayor Veto

There have been two things that have been bothering me for quite a while
now: the state of our parks and the state of our roads. The City has cut
back in its investments in both of them. The result is that the condition
of our roads has been declining (the potholes are real) and our parks are
aging and show it.

Now the is a solution for roads. Or at least a start. The City has yet to produce
a study about what the full need is but the City has about $7 million in savings
(on-going) from reduced payments for city pensions.  This can be used for roads.

But what to do about neighborhood parks? Regional parks get state, federal
and regional money but neighborhood parks only get property tax money for
maintenance and rehab. We have over 150 neighborhood parks and 49
neighborhood park buildings. Currently, the City’s five year plan has $2.5
million a year for maintaining and rehabbing all these parks and park
buildings. Clearly this isn’t enough. The Park Board put together an
estimate of the cost of maintaining our neighborhood parks and it comes to
$14M a year. We need more money for parks if we are going to keep the
system that we have.

I’ve been working with some folks to put a question on the ballot this year
that would give more money to neighborhood park maintenance. The Park
passed a formal resolution on this, stating that they supported a
referendum vote this fall. Now the Mayor vetoed it. In her letter, she said
she supported the referendum but she disagreed with the inflation
factor selected by the Park Board and also the hold harmless language
(which would have meant that the City couldn’t have cut local government
aid or the bonding money that it already provides or jack up its
administrative fees). Now I actually agree with her about the inflation
factor being too aggressive. But I do think that there has to be some way
of making sure the City doesn’t come and raid all the money from the
referendum. Because, without safeguards, that is what will happen.

The Park Board is going to vote on overturning the Mayor’s veto tonight.
The community folks will continue to work on bringing this to the voters
because there is no other way of making sure our parks are preserved for
future generations. Hopefully all parties can all work together to make
this happen.

Carol Becker