Category Archives: Commissioner Misbehavior

Commissioners unable to do their jobs?

This week at the meeting of Park Board Commissioners there will be a discussion item on the regular board agenda about of all things, constituent services.  This should be of interest to the public because they include in the discussion description some interesting things.

  1. Should they be able to hire staff to assist them with constituent services?                 No, why do they need more staff?  The commissioners are suppose to work with the Superintendent, the Deputy Superintendent and the 3 Assistant Superintendents to solve constituent issues.    Maybe if more of them had attended the orientations offered they would know where to go….

A) Trouble with something like lawn mowing, plowing or trash pick up….that would be the Assistant Superintendent for Environmental Services (Jeremy Barrick)

B) You have rude coach, unpleasant rec center staff, lack of field access…that would be the Assistant Superintendent for Recreation (Tyrize Cox)

C)  You aren’t sure when one of your parks is due new playground equipment or why the construction at your rec center is delayed… that would be the Assistant Superintendent for Planning (Michael Schroeder)

D) You want to know how much is spent on community engagement in your area, how to know if the folks running the concessions at Columbia Golf are paying their contracted fees to the MPRB, or if Juneteenth is going to happen or if they have defaulted on paying the MPRB … that would fall under the Deputy Superintendent (Jennifer Ringold) and finally

E) If it is a legal question or something you don’t feel falls into one of the categories above, contact the Interim Superintendent Mary Merrill.  She should be able to get people to pick up their phones.

2.   Should the commissioners have a budget to hold meetings with their constituents?  No, again this is part of community engagement that the park board already budgets for annually.  Problems at East Phillips with the needs of your Hispanic constituents and soccer.  Bring in the translators, print up some flyers in Spanish, partner with Waite House and invite other commissioners and senior staff to join you.  Want to meet constituents for a talk.  There is an office provided for all 9 of the PART TIME commissioners to share at the MPRB headquarters.  You can schedule a larger meeting room at the HQ with the customer service staff or my favorite meet at a local park, the staff can schedule you a room.  If all else fails coffee shop meetings put dollars back into the local community, but the MPRB and the taxpayers should NOT have to pay for your espresso.

3.  Other:  Having heard that some of the commissioners thought they would be getting their own offices and staff like at City Hall I wonder if any of them did the research as to what this job entails.   Did you pick up the phone and ask one of the outgoing commissioners?  Did you ask anyone at the Park Board?  Did you not feel that there would be some work you would have to do to earn your $12,440 per year?  You also can turn in mileage and parking of up to $200 a year and let’s not forget your access to health insurance at a really good rate, the VEBA the MPRB pays you to cover most of your deductible, and the $13,000 life insurance policy your family gets to collect if you die in office.  You also have to opportunity to put money into PERA (the public employee retirement system)  a lot better deal than a 401(K) as the state doesn’t get to be let off the hook if the system makes bad investments.

Pay attention to this discussion taxpayers!!!!

Comment by MPRB Commissioner Scott Vreeland

Comment by MPRB Commissioner Scott Vreeland

The following item is a pertinent excerpt from a recent post on the Issues List by MPRB Commissioner Scott Vreeland regarding Graco.

“I would prefer that this not be litigated. I want Graco to grow and
prosper. I want them to return to be the good neighbor they have been in the
past. If you look at the satellite image at this location, there are 6 city
blocks that are primarily Graco surface parking lots that could be used for
expansion of their current business.

They could have a great new building that is overlooking a great new park
amenity rather than on top of it.”



5:00 P.M. REGULAR BOARD MEETING. Committee meetings to follow. The meetings will be held in the boardroom at Park Board headquarters, 2117 West River Road, just north of Broadway Pizza.

5:30 P.M. OPEN TIME. Speakers need to sign up before 3:00 p.m. the day of the meeting.

This meeting is the last meeting that David Fisher will be attending as Superintendent. His four month stint as interim superintendent ends on October 31. We are grateful that he accepted the invitation to come to Minneapolis to fill this position.

This meeting is a meeting with many significant agenda items. The most important item on the agenda is the vote to approve the employment agreement with Jayne Miller, who–at the last meeting–was selected by a unanimous vote to be the new MPRB Superintendent.

Some highlights of the meetings that will be voted on :

The I-35 Bridge Memorial.
The concession agreement with Bread & Pickle at Lake Harriet.
The reconvening of the CAC for the Wirth Beach Project III.
The non-appointed CACs for two playgrounds at Lake Harriet.

There will be a presentation of the Superintendent’s 2011 Recommended Budget. This is a report item and will not be voted on at this time.

The following is the link to the complete agenda, with staff reports, for the MPRB Board of Commissioners’ meeting of Wednesday, October 20:

MPRB meetings are broadcast live from 5-9 p.m. on the City of Minneapolis Government Meeting Channel 79 on Comcast cable and online at

The regular meetings are rebroadcast on Channel 79 at 1 p.m. Saturdays and 5 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month. Webcasts for the recent two months are posted two to five business days after the meeting and are available for viewing under “Webcast Archives” at

The Park Board’s website is

Arlene Fried, Co-founder of Park Watch

More comments on Fine's counterpoint


The following four e-mails are on-line responses to Fine’s February 15 Star Tribune counterpoint:

FIRST COMMENT. Park Board meetings were not televised at the time Fine refers to. The murky appointment process was a key factor in getting MPRB to televise later meetings. However, those who were present at the meetings in questions left with little doubt that Gurban’s 11th hour appointment was at least a surprise to some of the MRPB board. Many believed then – and still do – that the appointment was the result of something considerably less than a diligent public process. Posted by saa1964 on Feb. 14, 10 at 9:29 PM

ANOTHER EXAMPLE of the Strib reporting inaccurate, misleading and damaging news in a very important situation. When will the strib learn to report all of the news, not just the news that supports thier own agenda. Not even dropping readership and downward finances get through their thick skulls. Posted by scottr on Feb. 14, 10 at 11:24 PM

WHAT THIS REALLY SHOWS is how out of touch Bob Fine (and other MPRB) is with the reality of the Park system. Fine won re-election simply because of his name recognition as an incumbent. There’s a reason he didn’t have party endorsement. Things are not great within the park system, just ask any recreation center director. Parks are in dis-repair, and recreation centers operate on shoestring budgets. While they don’t have money to keep skating rinks and pools open, they spend thousands on fancy signs to adorn the parkways. The Park Police has gone from one of the premier park safety departments to a rag-tag group that spends way too much time responding to Minneapolis city police calls. Parks used to be for people, now they’re for corporations that want to operate businesses on park property. In over 30 years with the Park system I’ve never seen them as poorly managed as under Gurban (and Fine). Posted by lawmoose on Feb. 15, 10 at 1:29 AM

CHICKITY CHECK IT. Tomorrow I will post some emails I received from Jon Gurban in response to some safety concerns I raised with the Grand Rounds completion… stay tuned. He’s not in-tune with the public. In the meantime, the Star Tribune editorial was just that. It was an editorial. It was not a front page story. Editorials are subjective. Why is this so hard to understand (Bob Fine)? Even thought it was an editorial, how can you dispute this: “Fine’s concerns about money are interesting, too. If Gurban’s contract had been extended, it would have cost the new board about $100,000 for a buyout — if it didn’t want to be saddled for over a third of its four-year tenure with a superintendent not of its choosing.” check out Posted by chocotastic on Feb 15, 10 at 10:27 pm

FIne Is The One Guilty Of Spreading 'False' Info

The following letter to the editor was published in the Star Tribune in response to the counterpoint article by Park Board Commissioner Bob Fine:


Bob Fine’s Feb. 15 counterpoint suggests the Star Tribune Feb. 7 editorial, “Good start for new board,” “contained false and misleading information.” The same could be said of his counterpoint.

Fine states that “the minority walked out in objection, but had no alternative suggestion.” In fact, the minority, of which I was a part, proposed that we go back to the five semifinalists, and we had received an indication that some were still interested in the position.

Fine also said that “members of a minority on the board made statements that caused both finalists to leave.” That seems to be a perception on his part. There is no evidence that it was the case.


A PARK BOARD MANDATE: Fine misrepresents events

On Feb. 7, 2010 the Star Tribune published an editorial which was critical of Park Board Commissioners Bob Fine and Jon Olson. On Feb. 15, the Star Tribune published counterpoint letter from Fine criticizing the editorial.

Fine’s letter elicited the following response, which appeared in the Opinion Exchange on the editorial pages of the Star Tribune on February 18, 2010:

A PARK BOARD MANDATE: Fine misrepresents events

In his Feb. 15 counterpoint to the Feb. 7 Star Tribune editorial “Good start for new board,” Park Board Member Bob Fine claimed that the editorial contained “false and misleading information.” But Fine had his own false and misleading information.

According to Fine, “a one-year search for a superintendent was conducted in 2003.” According to Park Board minutes, the search began in July 2003, when the search firm was voted on. My calendar tells me that July to December is only six months.

Then there is the 2003 hiring of Superintendent Jon Gurban. Isn’t it false and misleading to attempt to whitewash the hiring of a superintendent who had not been screened nor interviewed and was not even present at the meeting when Fine orchestrated the hiring?

Not only were the four 2003 minority commissioners outraged, but so was the public. I was one of several individuals who organized a rally at Park Board headquarters protesting the improper hiring of Gurban. That rally was the beginning of Park Watch.

Fine claims that “Gurban was doing an outstanding job of maintaining the system.” If this were true, the 2009 election would have supported it. But the outcome of the election was a new Park Board majority — Brad Bourn, John Erwin, Anita Tabb, Scott Vreeland, Liz Wielinski and Annie Young — and a mandate for new leadership for our park system. Fine, who supported Gurban and the status quo, became part of the new three-commissioner minority.

When the six new majority commissioners voted to initiate a search for a new superintendent, they were doing so because there was a public mandate to do so. Fine may not agree with them, but the six new majority commissioners did the right thing. And so did the Star Tribune.



The following request for bids by the MPRB for the Lake Calhoun South Shore Parking project appeared in Finance and Commerce. Dated on June 9, it states that the bids will be opened on July 9. But the project plans were never brought to the commissioners for approval BEFORE being sent out to bid. And the public NEVER had an opportunity to weigh in on this project.

One of the main reasons that citizen participation was denied was because Sixth District Commissioner Bob Fine was opposed to it. Because the project is in his district, it was difficult to overcome his unwillingness to invite public comment.

The RFP was obtained by Park Watch through the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.

Arlene Fried
Co-founder of Park Watch


Conflict of Interest/Code of Ethics: Contractor agrees to be bound by the City’s Code of Ethics, Minneapolis Code of Ordinances, Chapter 15. Contractor certifies that to the best of its knowledge all City employees and officers participating in this Agreement have also complied with that Ordinance. It is agreed by the Parties that any violation of the Code of Ethics constitutes grounds for the City to void this Agreement. All questions relative to this section shall be referred to the City and shall be promptly answered.

Chapter 377 of the Minnesota Statutes prohibits gifts from interested persons to local officials. Local officials includes any individuals who purchase, advise or recommend on the purchase of goods and/or services.

All successful bidder(s) will be required to comply fully with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).


Official Publication No. __________


Official Publication No. ____________


June 08, 2009

Park and Recreation Board

330 Second Avenue South – Suite 552

Minneapolis, MN 55401

For information call

AN AFFIRMATIVE ACTION EMPLOYER (612) 673-2333 Mr. David Ybarra



Scope of Work includes: To furnish all labor, materials, equipment and incidentals necessary to accomplish: miscellaneous site demolition, earthwork, construction of bituminous surfacing, permeable paver system, reinforced grass paver system, concrete surfacing, temporary fencing, drain tile and storm sewer connection, electrical work, Lighting installation, landscaping, and related items. Site location is: east of the intersection of West Calhoun Parkway and Richfield Road on the north side of Richfield Road, in the city of Minneapolis.

All in accordance with plans and specifications which may be obtained upon payment of a non-refundable fee of $100.00 per set, at the offices of HGKI, Inc., 123 North Third St., Suite 100, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1659 (612) 338-0800- PHONE, (612) 338-6838 – FAX. Plans will not be mailed. Limited sets will be available and additional sets will be printed on request with an approximate 2-3 day wait.

Complete project documents (including addenda) are also available for electronic downloading at on Quest Construction Data Network for $10.00 by entering e-bid # 904217 or searching under parking lots. Please contact at (952)233-1632 or for assistance. The current plan holder’s list is also available on Quest CDN for no charge.

Documents will be available for review at, N.A.M.C. Plan Room, F.W. Dodge Corporation, Minneapolis and St. Paul Builders Exchanges and MEDA Minority Contractors Plan Room.


The documents issued to the Plan Rooms are for information ONLY. If you intend to submit a bid on a City of Minneapolis project, you must obtain the documents from the distribution points indicated on the Call for Bids, to ensure having complete project/bidding information.

There will not be a Pre-Bid meeting, however, bidders are encouraged to inspect the Parking Lot at South Lake Calhoun on their own prior to placing a bid.

Successful bidder shall be subject to a pre-award Affirmative Action Compliance Review by the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights in accordance with Chapter 139.50(b) and Chapter 423 Small and Underutilized Business Enterprise Program of the Minneapolis Code of Ordinances.

The City of Minneapolis hereby notifies all bidders that in regard to any invitations to bid, advertisements, solicitations, or contracts to be entered into pursuant to this Plan, businesses owned and controlled by minorities or women will be afforded maximum feasible opportunity to submit bids and/or proposals and will not be subject to discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, age, religion, ancestry, affectional preference, disability, public assistance status, marital status or national origin.

Prospective bidders’ attention is called to Minnesota Statutes 13.591 Business Data. This section states in part:

Data submitted by a business to a government entity in response to a request for bids as defined in Section 16C.02, Subdivision 11 are private or non-public until the bids are opened. Once the bids are opened, the name of the bidder and the dollar amount specified in the response are read and become public. All other data in a bidder’s response to a bid are private or non-public data until completion of the selection process. For purposes of this section, “completion of the selection process” means that the government entity has completed its evaluation and has ranked the responses. After a government entity has completed the selection process, all remaining data submitted by all bidders are public with the exception of trade secret data as defined and classified in Section 13.37. A statement by a bidder that submitted data are copyrighted or otherwise protected does not prevent public access to the data contained in the bid.

Bidders are hereby advised that their bid documents may become available to the public once a successful bidder has been chosen.

Chapter 471.895 of the Minnesota Statutes prohibits gifts from interested persons to local officials. Local officials includes any individuals who purchase, advise or recommend on the purchase of goods and/or services.

Published in Finance and Commerce

Sealed bids will be received and time stamped by receptionist until Date 10:00 AM, CDST, July 09, 2009 at which time they will be publicly opened and read aloud. Do not fax bids to Purchasing.

Bids must be accompanied by a bid deposit in the amount of 2% of the total amount bid in the form of a certified check or bidder’s corporate surety bond made payable to the Minneapolis Finance Officer.


Envelope must bear the name of the firm submitting the bid and be addressed as follows:

City of Minneapolis Purchasing Department


Bids opened 10:00 AM, CST July 09, 2009

330 Second Avenue South – Suite 552

Minneapolis, MN 55401


The Park and Recreation Board reserves the right to waive informalities in bids, to accept or reject any or all bids or any part of any bid. Bids must be typewritten and signed in ink in handwriting.

TWO complete bid responses, including attachments, are to be returned, one of which must be an original.


Park Board Retreats from Transparency during Sunshine Week

This week the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board will celebrate Sunshine Week* ( by retreating from transparency and public oversight. In a move that boggles the mind, the Park Board, after its regular meeting this Wednesday, will hold a Committee of the Whole meeting off-camera. Yep, they will all get up, leave their seats and move to an adjacent room that seats the board, staff and if really crammed in there tight, about 6 to 7 members of the public. Why do this when their comfy, newly-remodeled and television-friendly board room with all the gadgets and microphones are just 10 feet away? Ask them.

So you might ask what will they be discussing off the air, only recorded by a little digital voice recorder that could be accidentally erased with the touch of a button?

#1. Is your park for sale?

There will be a discussion about whether or not to sell Brian Coyle Center and Waite House (south Mpls.) to Pillsbury United, and Bethune to the Phyllis Wheatley organization. Is this good or bad? Will there be a lively and well-thought-out discussion? Park Watch will attempt to get it taped for YouTube but it sure would be of better quality if it were on Cable Access.

#2. Capital Funding and the Preferred Future

The Board Plans to discuss the system for deciding what will be their capital investment priorities for the future. What criteria your park and its programming have to meet for the MPRB to bother investing in it. You don’t really need to know so you can keep the doors open right?

#3. The Board of Estimation and Taxation

What will the levy request be? What is the dream %? Will they end up with 4%? Can they take over the bonding levy of the Library Board? Isn’t that money going to the county? Will they all be asking for more money even though my home value is going down? What are the answers? I’d say tune in to find out but…

#4. Action Item.

The board will ask that the 2009 Capital Improvement dollars that the Mayor and CLIC (Capital Long Range Improvement Committee) have designated for East Phillips Community Center ($141,000) be swapped out and used for 65 lights along Victory Parkway. This is a real live vote that won’t be on real live TV.

To see the actual agenda go to . It should be up by Monday noon — unless it’s a holiday, or the staff person is sick or on vacation, or they are hacked again.

And for those of you following issues from last years budget — they will repeat this off-screen scenario again on April 16th, where they will be discussing Special Event and other assorted fees .

Sunshine, like bleach, kills bacteria and other bad things.

Tom Nordyke, President
Commissioner At Large
Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board
2117 West River Road
Minneapolis, MN 55411-2227
612-230-6443 ext. 8

Mary Merrill Anderson
Commissioner At Large
Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board
2117 West River Road
Minneapolis, MN 55411-2227
612-230-6443 ext. 7

M. Annie Young
Commissioner At Large
Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board
2117 West River Road
Minneapolis, MN 55411-2227
612-230-6443 ext. 9

Walt Dziedzic
Commissioner District 1
Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board
2117 West River Road
Minneapolis, MN 55411-2227
612-230-6443 ext. 1

Jon Olson
Commissioner District 2
Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board
2117 West River Road
Minneapolis, MN 55411-2227
612-230-6443 ext. 2

Scott Vreeland
Commissioner District 3
Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board
2117 West River Road
Minneapolis, MN 55411-2227
612-230-6443 ext. 3

Tracy Nordstrom
Commissioner District 4
Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board
2117 West River Road
Minneapolis, MN 55411-2227
612-230-6443 ext. 4

Carol A. Kummer
Commissioner District 5
Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board
2117 West River Road
Minneapolis, MN 55411-2227
612-230-6443 ext. 5

Bob Fine
Commissioner District 6
Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board
2117 West River Road
Minneapolis, MN 55411-2227
612-230-6443 ext. 6

Jon Gurban
Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board
2117 West River Road
Minneapolis, MN 55411-2227

* Sunshine Week is a national initiative to open a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information.

Daily Mole: Ray of hope: Will Nordyke era bring new openness and order to Minneapolis park board affairs?

By Chris Steller, special to the Daily Mole

“Change” may be the watchword for U.S. presidential candidates, but it’s also in the air at the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, where this month commissioners reorganized themselves under a new president, electing first-termer Tom Nordyke [pictured] to lead the city’s independent park board and raising hopes for a sharp turn toward good government and fiscal responsibility.

But at a retreat over this past weekend, park commissioners learned one thing hasn’t changed: They’re still broke. Staff revealed that as early as 2011, annual budget shortfalls could hit $1.7 million. By 2013, balancing the city parks’ books would require laying off 80 employees or raising property taxes a politically unpalatable 3 percent.

It might also mean more meetings like the one in December when park commissioners faced a packed house of placard-waving citizens, angry over sudden announcements of closed ice rinks, sharply increased fees, and purported money-making schemes that favor suburbanites over city folks.

The prospect of more such scenes won’t appeal to President Nordyke, in whom many observers discern aspirations to higher office. Nordyke showed citywide appeal in 2005 when he won one of three at-large seats; he alone among candidates for nine park board posts earned endorsements from rival citizen groups favoring reform and supporting the status quo.

But even at times when the flow of state aid could be relied upon to cover shortfalls, the park board has been a shaky stepping stone for political advancement. Jeff Spartz made the leap from park to county commissioner in the 1970s, and Dean Zimmermann got a push from Southside Greens to move from the park board to the city council in 2001. But four years later, with Zimmermann under investigation for bribery, Marie Hauser failed to pull off the same move, and Nordyke’s predecessor as president, Jon Olson, also fell short in his brief 2006 run for the DFL Fifth District Congressional endorsement.

Nordyke would do well to distinguish his reign from Olson’s, whose first chore four years ago was quieting the rabble gathered to protest the controversial hiring of Superintendent Jon Gurban (a schoolmate of Commissioner Bob Fine’s who had not even applied or been interviewed for the job). Olson presided over a bitter 5-4 factional split that eased only after the 2005 election brought the board new blood (Nordyke, Tracy Nordstrom, Mary Merrill Anderson and Scott Vreeland). On Olson’s watch, financial information was hard to come by, the board went for a time without keeping written minutes, and agenda items sprung up at the last moment without public notice. Olson could charm, but his “Thank you very much” could also drip venomous sarcasm, such as when he twice cut off a citizen who opposed renewing the superintendent’s contract. (Nordyke rose to her defense.) The Olson era ended with his effort to eliminate funding for staff to comply with the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.

If he can vanquish the city parks’ budget dragons, the chivalrous Nordyke would likely become a park users’ champion. But even if this prince must play the pauper, he could distinguish himself by raising the park board’s standard of transparency, accountability and professionalism.