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Monday, December 14, 2009

Bourn Accused of Campaign Violations

This is republished from a story written by Cristof Traudes for the Southwest Journal

He won’t be seated until Jan. 4, but a newly elected Southwest representative to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is already finding himself in hot water.

A complaint filed last month against Brad Bourn alleges that his campaign wrongly claimed to have received endorsements from two Southwest legislators, Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL–60B) and Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-60). The case is expected to soon go before a three-judge panel, after an administrative law judge determined the complaint "sets forth a prima facie violation."

The complaint came from Meg Forney, who lost the Nov. 3 election by a 794-vote margin. Bourn is set to succeed Bob Fine as the Park Board’s District 6 commissioner.

The centerpiece of Forney’s concerns was a flyer Bourn’s campaign sent out in the days leading up to the election. It listed Dibble and Hornstein among Bourn’s supporters, even though the legislators said they wanted to stay neutral in the race.

Bourn hasn’t denied that the flyer wrongly contained the pair’s endorsements. On Nov. 1, he addressed the issue head-on on his campaign website, saying his campaign knew about the mistake but not in time to stop the printer.

“I accept responsibility for the error in the mailer and apologize for any confusion this may have caused,” he wrote. “Our campaign noticed this error and brought it to the immediate attention of Sen. Dibble, Rep. Hornstein and my opponent.”

Bourn’s note, however, didn’t say which of his three opponents — Forney, Steve Jecha or Geneva Hanvik — he was referring to as “my opponent.” Later in the post, he wrote that “my opponent” made “a similar mistake” while screening for an endorsement with the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Neither Bourn nor Forney could be immediately reached for comment.

If Bourn’s campaign were found to have been at fault, a penalty would be based on how willful the campaign was in making the error and how much of an impact it had on the election’s outcome. Fines could range from $0 to $5,000, and the case could be passed onto the Hennepin County Attorney.

Jecha has been blogging about the issue since mid-November and said Bourn’s campaign should get a big fine. The flyers had an impact on the election outcome, he wrote Dec. 1, and therefore, “in my opinion, the only action that the three judge panel can take on this case is to proceed with a $1200–$2400 fine and to forward this to the County Attorney.”

“While some may be upset that a campaign complaint was filed,” Jecha wrote Nov. 18, “… if a law has been broken we all owe it to the system to make sure we police it and make sure it doesn’t happen — with any candidates in any election.”

Two other accusations in Forney’s complaint were dismissed. Forney said Bourn falsely claimed endorsement from Ted Wirth, the late grandson of former Superintendent Theodore Wirth, who died in September but whose endorsements were shared through a friend before the election. Forney’s complaint said Wirth, who had been sick for months, had been of “questionable capacity.”

She also said Bourn’s campaign used confusing and misleading statements when referring to “my opponent” because there was more than one, but Judge Barbara Neilson said a statement Forney called misleading actually was clearly cited.

Friday, December 11, 2009

It’s not easy being green. (but it could be)

It's not easy being green.

I am a grandfather of two beautiful and exuberant grand daughters who are not aware of our global climate crisis, nor of our generation’s in hand worsening it. Living between a coal plant and a nuclear plant cause me to be mindful, every day, of how much farther we have to go to ensure a safe planet for theirs and future generations.The picture you see above is where the park system currently gets most of it power from.

This past Tuesday December 8th, President Obama made a speech to the Brookings Institution stressing the need for immediate job creation through infrastructure and clean energy. You can see his speech here:

This week there is a United Nations Climate Change Conference going on in Copenhagen, Denmark. You can track it here:

Earlier this year, the Minneapolis Park Board adopted a goal of eliminating its carbon footprint, and on August 19th, 2009, the board asked staff to study the feasibility of public ownership of a hydro plant and report back to the board.

On December 2, 2009, General Manager Don Sigglekow made very startling presentation to the commissioners entitled, “Comparative Analysis of Renewable Energy Options.” You can see Mr. Sigglekow’s presentation here:

The presentation included several key facts.

- The park system currently uses about 13,800,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity each year.
- This produces some 10,350 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2).
- Conservation alone cannot meet the goal of eliminating their carbon footprint.
- In order to achieve production to completely offset the park system’s electricity consumption:
- Wind would cost more than $100 million over the next 50 years and require at least 300 acres of open space.
- Solar would cost about $200 million over the next 50 years and take about 80 acres of open space.
- Hydro would cost about $25 million over the next 50 years, and take less than 1 acre.
It concluded that wind and solar were simply not feasible, but that a small hydro project could actually pay for itself.

To review, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has a stated goal of eliminating its carbon footprint. It is not possible to achieve this goal with energy efficiency, wind energy or solar energy. It has an opportunity to achieve this goal with small hydro, and it can generate income as well.

You can probably imagine how the Commissioners responded, with exclamations of gratitude and excitement.

“Mr. Sigglekow, thank you for this incredibly informative presentation!” *
“This is great news! In tough economic times, this means millions of dollars of much-needed revenues for the parks!” *
“This is stunning. We can actually eliminate our carbon footprint.” *
“Oh, Mr. Sigglekow, you have really outdone yourself this time – this is the enterprise project of the century!” *
* Nobody said any of these things.

One Commissioner, Jon Olson, had a logical response and offered a resolution with the following statements:

“Whereas the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is committed to eliminating its carbon footprint and transitioning to renewable energy;
Whereas the park system uses 14,000,000 kWh in electricity, and a small run-of-river hydro project could generate approximately 19,000,000 kWh in clean, renewable energy;
Whereas the State of Minnesota is facing massive cuts to balance its long term budget, with a $1.2 billion projected deficit in 2010-2011 that could grow past $5 billion in 2012-2013, the Park Board is forced to look for alternative revenue sources;
Whereas the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has the opportunity to completely eliminate its carbon footprint and become the first carbon-neutral or even carbon-negative large park system in the world;
Whereas the current board elected in 2005 and serving from 2006 to 2010 has been considering this project for four (4) years, as well as three other boards for the previous twelve (12) years, and we have come to the conclusion that the only way forward for an energy project on park land is if it is publicly-owned;
Whereas four (4) new commissioners will serve on the MPRB beginning January 2010;
Now therefore be it resolved that the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board supports public ownership of a hydro facility in Mill Ruins Park, and encourages the next board to acquire the rights of water use, and authorization and resources needed to complete construction.
Be it further resolved that this board instructs staff to provide the new board with comprehensive information about this project, with complete development, finance and construction options by end of February 2010.”

Then Commissioner Vreeland said, “This is terrific! With everyone in the world talking about clean energy and job creation, we actually have the opportunity to take action and make an enormous difference!” *
* Just kidding, he didn’t say that.

Actually, Commissioner “I’m an environmentalist” Vreeland, on red-alert and whose face throughout the presentation turned from cherry to ruby to scarlet to about-to-have-a-stroke crimson, interrupted Commissioner Olson to exclaim, “I find this totally, totally inappropriate to have this be put kind of under the rug of… this should have gone to planning… I feel ambushed. This is an issue that should go to committee.” *
* Not kidding, he actually said this.

Hmmmm, I thought the whole boards voted, unanimously, on August 19th to have staff present the feasibility of a hydro project to THE WHOLE BOARD.

Commissioner Olson then responded, “This simply is moving it forward to the next board. We’re not committing to build the project but we are asking staff to bring all the information forward to the next board.”

So Commissioner Vreeland said, “You know, you’re right Commissioner Olson. I don’t want to miss the forest for the trees. It is important for our environment. It makes our park system more sustainable. So if this is supposed to be discussed by the whole board in the committee as a whole or by the whole board in the planning committee is just a trivial difference. Not only that, I was endorsed by the Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades as well as the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, and this is an opportunity to create dozens of union construction jobs and get some of our brothers and sisters in labor back to work.” *
* He didn’t say ANY of these things.

Instead, Commissioner “Carbon Sasquatch-Print” Vreeland says, “It’s not always what you do, it’s how you do it.” Then he accuses Commissioner Olson of sneaking it in on a night when he knew Commissioner Young and President Nordyke would not be there. Sheesh. Does Commissioner Vreeland know he’s on television? Didn’t his mother ever teach him the concepts of trust and respect? He goes on to say, brilliantly, “This may be a great idea but we have processes, we have committees, we have ways of doing things.”

I think we see the difference between a leader and a bureaucrat. The motion failed.

P.S. Park Watch also missed the forest for the trees. You can read their analysis here: From this, we can safely conclude that Park Watch didn’t get the green jobs memo.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A good read.

With the MPRB considering going off the grid and become self sustaining using clean green energy I thought this article would be of interest to our readers. Reducing greenhouse gassing will require all of us pitching in and working together.

EPA: Greenhouse Gases Are Danger To Human Health
by The Associated Press
December 7, 2009

The Environmental Protection Agency has concluded greenhouse gases are endangering people's health and must be regulated, signaling that the Obama administration is prepared to contain global warming without congressional action if necessary.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson scheduled a news conference for later Monday to announce the so-called endangerment finding, officials told The Associated Press, speaking privately because the announcement had not been made.

The finding is timed to boost the administration's arguments at an international climate conference beginning this week that the United States is aggressively taking actions to combat global warming, even though Congress has yet to act on climate legislation.

Under a Supreme Court ruling, the so-called endangerment finding is needed before the EPA can regulate carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases released from power plants, factories and automobiles under the federal Clean Air Act.

The EPA signaled last April that it was inclined to view heat-trapping pollution as a threat to public health and welfare and began to take public comments under a formal rulemaking. The action marked a reversal from the Bush administration, which had declined to aggressively pursue the issue.

Business groups have strongly argued against tackling global warming through the regulatory process of the Clean Air Act. Any such regulations are likely to spawn lawsuits and lengthy legal fights.

The EPA and the White House have said regulations on greenhouse gases will not be imminent even after an endangerment finding, saying that the administration would prefer that Congress act to limit such pollution through an economy-wide cap on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Nevertheless, the EPA has begun the early stages of developing permit requirements on carbon dioxide pollution from large emitters such as power plants. The administration also has said it will require automobile fuel economy to increase to a fleet average of 35 miles per gallon by 2016, another push to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The EPA's readiness to tackle climate change is expected to give a boost to U.S. arguments at the climate conference opening in Copenhagen this week that the United States is making broad commitments to reduce greenhouse gases.
While the House has approved climate legislation that would cut emissions by 17 percent by 2020 and about 80 percent by mid-century, the Senate has yet to take up the measure amid strong Republican opposition and reluctance by some centrist Democrats.

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), lead author of the Senate bill, has argued that if Congress doesn't act, the EPA will require greenhouse gas emissions. He has called EPA regulation a "blunt instrument" that would pose a bigger problem for industry than legislation crafted to mitigate some of the costs of shifting away from carbon emitting fossil fuels.

The way was opened for the EPA to use the Clean Air Act to cut climate-changing emissions by the Supreme Court in 2007, when the court declared that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are pollutants under the Act. But the court said the EPA must determine if these pollutants pose a danger to public health and welfare before it can regulate them.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Check this out.

Here is the superintendents 2010 proposed Budget for the Minneapolis park system.
Right click on "Check this out" to go to the link.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Another Power Grab?

Park Watch recently made a post entitled, "Another Power Grab?”

The MPRB is considering public ownership of a small run-of-river hydro facility, formerly proposed by private developer Crown Hydro. The board has stated that reducing their carbon footprint and energy independence are goals. On August 5th, the Planning Committee asked staff to meet with key stakeholders to gather their feedback on public ownership and to develop finance options. On August 19, the board as a whole supported the motion from the planning department and asked staff to evaluate the feasibility of public ownership. At that meeting Commissioners, such as Young, asked staff to present their information in the context of their renewable energy goals, and in comparison to other renewable sources.

At each of those meetings, Commissioners asked staff to present that information at the November 18th meeting. Staff made a partial presentation on the 18th, with feedback from project stakeholders as well as neighbors, and indicated they would present more information on December 2nd.

How Ms. Fried could twist this simple set of facts into a charge of a "power grab" illustrates why we struggle so much as a society to meet our environmental and renewable energy goals, and why we fail to solve many collective problems.

We are facing a Global climate crisis. Coal is the leading man-made source of CO2 (carbon dioxide) the largest human cause of that climate change. Businesses, Government and individuals are all being called upon to get involved in the solution which is the reduction of our carbon footprint. Many, like the MPRB are answering that call.

We should applaud the MPRB for taking a lead in this. We encourage the board to also seek out every possible alternative and implement the plan that best fits with the twin goals of carbon free energy independence and the economic benefits that go along with it.

To those that cannot contribute respectfully and constructively to this dialogue, we suggest you not participate.


One of the hardest things a person can do is run for elective office.

Regardless of whether if we agree or disagree with a candidate, we want to express our admiration for everybody who threw their hat into the ring and ran for a MPRB seat.

We believe every candidate had the best of intentions and ran to make the park system better for everyone.

We now have a new board and they are listed with contact information on the sidebar of this blog. It’s now up to us the voting public, to stay involved and take an active role in helping the new board members keep their campaign promises and volunteer when we can.

Thank you to everyone who ran.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Vreeland the plumber.

If you’re old like me, you may remember that the Nixon white house was obsessed with leaks, so obsessed they hired guys like G. Gordon Liddy to plug the leaks. The name for these guys were “the plumbers”.

It’s come back to us that Scott Vreeland is spending a lot of time and effort trying to track down the person who sent us a copy of his “pulling the plug” e-mail he sent to the Pillsbury United Communities Board of Directors and which we posted on this blog. Several staff members and PUC directors were questioned in a tone that was less than pleasant to say the least.

Vreeland’s demeanor in his investigation has been described to me as angry, accusatory and threatening. In short, he is continuing the same tactics and tone that he exhibited in his public e-mail to the PUC board.

Let me assure Commissioner Vreeland and the many people who continue to send us copies of e-mails and other information that we will not disclose sources but we will verify stories before we post them here. The content of the e-mail was confirmed by several people and its authenticity is not in question.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Transparency in government?

Are the Park Watch Commissioner elects convening private meetings to set the agenda for their upcoming term, and to discuss committee chairmanships and leadership structure?

This is an open letter and warning to those newly elected and sitting Commissioners that Park Watch Watch will be watching very closely to see if the agenda of the upcoming board will be set in public meetings or if they have already developed their plans behind closed doors.

Please be aware that any Commissioner (elected, sitting or just waiting to hear) that does not comply with open meeting laws should be prepared to disclose under oath if they have held private meetings, participated in string emails or phone calls in order to develop a plan or agenda. Any actions by the new Board that appear to have been planned out in advance will trigger Park Watch Watch into action on this vital issue – all business must be discussed and debated in public, not private.

Brad Bourn should forfeit office

Re-posted/excerpted from Steve Jecha’s blog:

(Steve is a candidate for District 6 Park Commissioner. That district had four candidates and Brad Bourn received 48% of first-choice votes. Here is a summary of total (1st, 2nd, and 3rd-choice) votes each candidate received.
Brad Bourn 5,398
Meg Forney 5,387
Steve Jecha 2,624
Geneva Hanvik 1,342
We show this simply to illustrate that it is a close race.)

Brad Bourn sent out a post card in the final few days of the election which declares prominently that he is endorsed by both Senator Dibble and House Rep Hornstein. HE WASN'T.

Chapter 578 of the campaign laws regarding fair practices states:Sec. 2. [211B.02] [FALSE CLAIM OF SUPPORT.] A person or candidate may not knowingly make, directly or indirectly, a false claim stating or implying that a candidate or ballot question has the support or endorsement of a major political party or party unit or of an organization. A person or candidate may not state in written campaign material that the candidate or ballot question has the support or endorsement of an individual without first getting written permission from the individual to do so.So, note the second sentence. This does not bode well for candidate Bourn as he admittedly (on his website) has stated his wrongdoing. So, what are the consequences (I am not a law you have been warned!) of making a "False Claim of Support"? If I read the campaign laws correctly, this is a misdemeanor - with the potential of 90 days in jail or a fine of $1,000. No one wishes this on anyone.

Sec. 17. [211B.17] [FORFEITURE OF NOMINATION OR OFFICE; CIRCUMSTANCES WHERE NOT FORFEITED.] Subdivision 1. [FORFEITURE OF NOMINATION OR OFFICE.] Except as provided in subdivision 2, if a candidate is found guilty of violating this chapter or an offense was committed by another individual with the knowledge, consent, or connivance of the candidate, the court, after entering the adjudication of guilty, shall enter a supplemental judgment declaring that the candidate has forfeited the nomination or office. If the court enters the supplemental judgment, it shall transmit to the filing officer a transcript of the supplemental judgment, the nomination or office becomes vacant, and the vacancy must be filled as provided by law. Bourn's only out is to claim under subdivision 2 that this was a "trivial" error (kind of hard in a high DFL voting area and postcards may have went to all "likely" voters in the 11th hour of the election), or, it was an "accident" (ummm...yeah, the typesetter at the printhouse changed the postcard after we gave final approval to run).

From Brad Bourn’s Facebook page

Brad Bourn for Minneapolis Park Commissioner District 6: A recent mailer sent out from my campaign included a mistake. Please visit for the correction. Thanks and good luck to us all on Tuesday! Only a few more days!”
November 1 at 4:43 pm

From Brad Bourn’s website (in tiny print at the bottom)

“Important Update: 11-1-09
Many of you may have received or will be receiving a mailer from my campaign. There was a mistake on this mailer that was not noticed before it went to the printer. The mailer listed State Senator Scott Dibble and State Representative Frank Hornstein as endorsing my candidacy. Sen. Dibble and Rep. Hornstein have not officially made an endorsement in this election. I have tremendous respect for Sen. Dibble and Rep. Hornstein and share many of the same values they advocate for at the state level. I accept responsibility for the error in the mailer and apologize for any confusion this may have caused. Our campaign noticed this error and brought it to the immediate attention of Sen. Dibble, Rep. Hornstein, and my opponent. My opponent made a similar mistake a few weeks ago in a screening with the Star Tribune and was quick to clear up her mistake as well.

We are running a very positive, issue focused, campaign. We will continue to advocate for the values so many of us share. I am proud to be your DFL, Labor, and Sierra Club endorsed candidate for our independent Park Board, District 6.

Thank you for your continued support and good luck to us all!”

From Brad Bourn’s website (in normal-size print at the top):

“I'm for transparency and increased citizen input.”

Our advice to Brad Bourn: This is the first test of your ethics. There are only two potential options. Forfeit your office to the next-highest vote getter, or ask for a repeat election with voters knowing the truth.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Wise men say:

The most important role a "sitting" Board has is to assure a smooth transition for the Superintendent and the "new" Board by providing the appropriate amount of time to work together before making a contract decision. This would apply whether there are 3 new Commissioners or an all new Board. It is their role to assure a smooth transition.

If they extended the Superintendent's contract for one year to June 2011, the "new" Board will work with the Superintendent for 6 months before deciding on whether to extend for the normal period of 3 years or to part ways and start a search for a new Superintendent. That's it, 6 months of working with and evaluating the Superintendent before the "new" Board would make a decision. That is a very short time frame if there is substantial change in the composition of the Board. There may be only one new board member with any experience in holding political office. No matter how well the new board members think they know the organization, they don't know it - they can't know it. It takes time and that time should be spent working with the staff that runs the organization.

If the Board and the Superintendent part ways in the future, it is critical that the departure is amiable. A dismissal without cause will result in a very, very difficult search process. Park professionals would not risk their career with a Board that would dismiss a Superintendent without cause. The search would attract those in the profession that "career hop" staying for 3-4 years and moving on. Our history has been to retain Superintendents; our recent pattern has been to not retain Superintendents. This is the trend of a troubled organization and it will again lead to a very difficult search. People in this profession network with each other and they all know what positions were "career killers" and which positions had good Boards to work for. You don't want the reputation of being a "career killer" in the Park profession.

If the Board can work through an amiable separation in the future with the Superintendent, then he can aid in the search and put a positive perspective on the Board and the position. With the connections that the current Superintendent has within the State and National associations - he will be extremely influential in the search process. That is normally the first step of any candidate for the position - to search out the reason that last person left and determine if it is a good organization to work for.

The alternative is to hire someone that is not in the Park profession such as the Library Board did with their last Library Director.

The reason that Park Board staff came to the contract extension study session is that they strongly support the current Superintendent. That trust was built; it does not come with the position. We have a highly motivated and hard working staff - they want to know what issues that Board has with the current Superintendent. They did not get any critical comments on the current Superintendent at the last meeting. Leading this organization is an extremely important and demanding position. The current Superintendent, by all measures, has done an excellent job of leading the staff so they can do their jobs. I that type leadership deserves respect and thanks.

Some have said that selecting the Superintendent is one of the most important things the Board does. I agree with that. Another important thing is to do what is right for the organization that you represent rather than make politically expedient decisions. I hope the new board has the knowledge and will to make the right decision for our system.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Vreeland "pulls the plug" on the kids at Brian Coyle

A week after the election, Scott Vreeland sent this to the Pillsbury United Communities Board of Directors. Thanks to one of our readers for sending this to us.
-----Original Message-----
From: SVreeland_Home Nov 09, 2009 12:30 PM
Subject: PUC

Ok, I have had enough.
-Scott Vreeland

Dear Pillsbury United Communities Board of Directors,

I have been working on improving the relationship and resolving lease issues with PUC for the past four years. I have promised to meet all our contractual agreements and I have done so. I have proposed a mutually beneficial solution for the Park Board and PUC that was outlined by a letter of understanding that was agreed to by your board chair and President Pribbenow and CEO Tony Wagner.

Unfortunately there has been nothing more frustrating in my four years as a public official than dealing with the misinformation and animosity generated by your staff.
I did not want to go on the offensive and be publicly critical of your organization, especially while progress was being made that would resolve these issues.

My patience has run out. You have not been negotiating in good faith. I do not know if this has been the board's decision to burn bridges rather than build them, but I am pulling the plug on negotiations.

If your board does not want $ 3 million in assets, so be it. If you do not want us to renew the lease on the Pillsbury Waite house that would be good to know.
But if that is your choice, be forewarned that I am very willing to very publicly speak the truth about what I see as often very destructive behavior of your staff in a community that I know very well.

Scott Vreeland

Some of the quotes from Vreeland in the MNdaily article:

Park board commissioner Scott Vreeland didn’t vote for the center’s proposal even though it’s in his district because he said the East Phillips and Stewart communities have been a priority for more than a decade. “We have a large park system and this is just the first round of improvements,” he said. “Every neighborhood would like park improvements, and this’ll be my top priority next year.”

Vreeland didn’t deny disagreements over the lease and the amount the park board owes are impacting the potential for partnership between the board and the center.
“I wish we could do more for the community and update and rehab everything, but there are priorities,” he said.

Still, he maintains the board has kept its contractual duties, a claim the center denies.“It’s really frustrating when we hit all these roadblocks when in reality, it should be a great partnership,” Blevins said.

Now it appears that Vreeland has “pulled the plug” in his own words. Too bad for all of the kids in that neighborhood.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Best and Worst?

There have been some really pretty interesting campaigns in the park board race and often it is democracy at its finest no matter how much some of the powers that be try to screw it up.

District 3 has a pretty good race going on that has flown well below anybody’s radar. Scott Vreeland is the incumbent who seems to be running an incumbency campaign depending the automatic endorsements that come with that. He’s running against Mike Wendorf who has managed to raise some serious cash and is spending it this week with 3 mailings. Add to that that Scott has made fierce enemies in Cedar riverside, Phillips and plank road neighbors, and combine that with a district that has the lowest turnout in the city and this could be a ballgame that nobody’s watching. I look for an upset in that district.

District 6: Bourn, Jecha, and Forney: Here’s where the IRV kicks in and god only knows when there will be a winner declared but I suspect we will be watching Farve in the Super Bowl before we find out the winner. Bourn of course is the Park Watch candidate and he’s been running a tough race against a couple candidates who seem to have no problem standing toe to toe. In fact it looks like Jecha likes it. I’d expect no less from a hockey coach. Check out his blog, because Jecha has dropped the gloves. Meg Forney is just a solid candidate who knows her stuff and just barely lost last time. The problem is all in the ranking. Jecha is running for youth sports, Forney brings most experience and Bourn loves everything about the parks and wants to change that by replacing the current board and staff.

Bernie Kunza is running for Commissioner of District One. He’s coached a lot of kids and all the parents of these kids seem to be coming out for him. He could be a sleeper.

Now for some of the worst.

The worst thing I’ve seen is the use of having dead people endorsing candidates 2 months after they passed by way of personal assistants. Of course all the candidates are the Park Watch folks. I won’t give any names but you know who you are and you should be ashamed.

Next is the Star and Tribune coverage of the MPRB or coverage of anything not related to pro sports or the “lifestyle section”.

When the paper changed ownership and subscriptions fell (another 5% this year) the new owners figured that the problem with the news paper was that there was too much news in it.

So unless a Park board commissioner gets caught in the Tribune parking lot performing unnatural acts with circus animals, the park issues are not going to get space. Now that’s bad, but what is even worse is that they endorse candidates. You average mother with kids is much better informed than the local paper is.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The best and worst.

Frankly we have been swamped with requests for stories. We get e-mails telling us what candidates are saying, pieces of campaign lit, and invites to almost every type of fund raiser for Park commissioner there is.

One of the issues that struck me as something worth writing about was the best and worst examples of things happening on the stump. Let’s face it, if you’re running for Park Board you can pretty much do or say anything because the press isn’t going to cover your race anyway.

So please send us your suggestions for the best and worst on the park board campaign trail.

Evaluation of Superintendent Jon Gurban

Now we all know that superintendent Jon Gurban is number 1 on the Park Watch hit list. And while the Park watch slate of candidates (Guest, Stone, Tab, Vreeland, Wielinski and Bourn.) are all vague if not deceitful about where they stand on anything, they are united in saying that Gurban should go.

What this should point out is the lack of management experience or background that this slate has. Wielinski is a part time office supply store clerk; Guest is a lobbyist who just moved into the area he is running in, Vreeland use to build stage props. Bourn has yet to list a single issue on his web page.

But has any HR director can tell you one of the best tools a board can use is the JOB Performance and Evaluation survey.

Let’s look at the last evaluation done on Gurban. This one was basically a survey of sitting Board Members.

Summary of Salient Points of 2008 Evaluation of Superintendent Jon Gurban
The Park Board retained James Metzen to evaluate the current performance of Superintendent Jon Gurban. The evaluation was presented to the Park Board on October 1, 2008.

Superintendent Gurban was evaluated in ten areas and also gave him an overall rating. For each area, the possible ratings were
• Below expectations; needs improvement
• Meets expectations
• Exceeds expectations
• Consistent superior performance

The following is a summary of the salient points of the evaluation of Superintendent Gurban:

1) Board Relations
Below expectations; needs improvement (3)
Meets expectations (3)
Exceeds expectations (1)
Consistent superior performance (0)
Board members felt the Superintendent and his staff have a deep commitment to the parks and
done good work and deserve credit for that work. However, several Board members continued to have serious issues with the lack communication between the Superintendent and Board

2) Staff Leadership and direction
Below expectations; needs improvement (0)
Meets expectations (3)
Exceeds expectations (3)
Consistent superior performance (2)
Board members felt Superintendent Gurban has done a tremendous job in putting in place
excellent staff is excellent and that our staff is our greatest asset. The need for strong diversity in management and staff was stressed.

3) Strategic Direction
Below expectations; needs improvement (0)
Meets expectations (2)
Exceeds expectations (3)
Consistent superior performance (1)
Board members praised the Superintendent and staff for the direction of the Park Board and
in particular the Comprehensive Plan, and for making the Park Board a national leader. One
Board member expressed the desire to work collaboratively with other park systems in the

4) Innovation
Below expectations; needs improvement (2)
Meets expectations (2)
Exceeds expectations (2)
Consistent superior performance (1)
Board members addressed the "hub model," one feeling it was a great idea and another
expressing hope that it would improve the organization. One Board member expressed concerns about Phillips.

5) Thriving System
Below expectations; needs improvement (0)
Meets expectations (2)
Exceeds expectations (3)
Consistent superior performance (2)
Board members again stressed the excellence of the Superintendent and Staff in the
Comprehensive Plan.

6) Sustainability
Below expectations; needs improvement (1)
Meets expectations (2)
Exceeds expectations (3)
Consistent superior performance (1)
One Board member suggested the Park Board share a sustainability coordinator with Three
Rivers or St. Paul. Another noted concern that the Park Board does not get enough credit for the good things it does.

7} Dynamic Parks
Below expectations; needs improvement (O)
Meets expectations (2)
Exceeds expectations (3)
Consistent superior performance (2)
Most board members felt that the Superintendent and Staff had done an excellent job in this area.
One commented that data preservation, record keeping and information retrieval systems are poor and other commented that progress on the assessment of Park Board properties was slow.

8) Safety
Below expectations; needs improvement (0)
Meets expectations (3)
Exceeds expectations (0)
Consistent superior performance (5)
One Board member noted uncleamess on the Park Board's goals in the area of safety. One Board member felt that the Superintendent and staff should get an A+ in the area of safety and another also praised not only the commitment to safety but the monthly police updates for the Board.

9} Urban Forest, Natural Areas and Waters
Below expectations; needs improvement (1)
Meets expectations (2)
Exceeds expectations (3)
Consistent superior performance (1)
More than one Board member noted the lack of an overall environmental plan. One Board
member felt there was a need to focus on getting information to citizens on what the Park Board is doing. Others felt the Superintendent and staff was doing a good job, particularly given limited resources.

lO} Independence
Below expectations; needs improvement (2)
Meets expectations (3)
Exceeds expectations (1)
Consistent superior performance (1)
Board members had mixed opinions on this point including about what relationships are
necessary to maintaining the Board's independence.

1 1) Overall rating
Below expectations; needs improvement (1)
Meets expectations (2)
Exceeds expectations (2)
Consistent superior performance (1)
Board members again stressed that the Superintendent has strong leadership skills, particularly
with staff, and that he is highly competent and loves the park system. However, Board members
also reiterated that the Superintendent continues to have significant difficulties with
communicating with the Board and the Community and needs to improve these relationships.

Once again, this evaluation says a lot about some (Vreeland, Young) board members.

In almost every measurable area Gurban gets great reviews. The board thinks Gurban has Great leadership skills, has shown great Strategic Direction, We have a thriving system that’s sustainable, It’s Dynamic and safe.

But for some reason 1 board member (Vreeland?) thinks Gurban is working below his expectations. 3 board members (Vreeland, Young and?) think board relations need improvement. I agree with this. But rather than replacing an innovative great leader with strategic vision who’s created a thriving system, isn’t it better to replace the board members who oppose him?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Staff shows support for Gurban.

About 100 park board staff employees showed up after work to the board meeting to show their support for extending Superintendent Jon Gurban’s contract for another year.

The board will take up this matter in their November meeting but it looks like Jon has the support of 6 of the members. Annie Young and Scott Vreeland wanted to put off the vote until there is a new board but thankfully were over ruled by members who knew they were elected to make decisions. Tom Nordyke tried to walk the line between doing the right thing and pleasing Park Watch by saying he would go along with whatever the majority of members wanted to do.

I suspect this did not sit well with the Park Watch crowd. They were counting on Nordyke, Young and Vreeland to make good on their promises to do away with the Superintendent in spite of the outstanding performance reviews he gets year in and year out. Having 100 staffers show up in support also tends to make politicians like Vreeland less boisterous because almost all of these staffers vote.

It says a lot about Gurban that so many of his staffers showed up. It also says a lot about those who oppose him about what kind of relationship they will have with staff should they take power.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fuming Fried finds facts frustrating.

We received a series of e-mail exchanges. Because Arlene Fried CC a reporter on her correspondence we obtained the permission of Mr. Siggelkow to published this exchange.

A little background:
Ms. Fried became upset at some comments made by well known liberal blogger Tommy (two putt) Johnson during the open comment time at a July 15th MPRB meeting. Tommy’s comments can be read in another post on this blog as well as his blog Mn. Campaign report at

Fried sent the following to Don Siggelkow as well as every sitting member on the board and at least one reporter:

“My written remarks which I read:

On July 15, 2009, a resident of Eden Prairie who is a supporter of the Crown Hydro project came to the MPRB's Open Time to discredit the presentation I had made on June 17.

He disputed the statements I made regarding FERC's license preempting local control of historic preservation issues and FERC's having the authority to let the Falls run dry in order to produce energy.

Because his attack on my credibility was televised and heard by those who were watching the meeting, I am writing this to point out that Tommy Johnson was mistaken. What Tommy Johnson did not know was that my source for the statements he challenged was a letter written on March 1, 2009, to Senator Higgins and Representative Campion by Rick Solum, a retired partner of the law firm of Dorsey and Whitney and a former Hennepin County District Judge; and, furthermore, Rick Solum's letter was based on an opinion by the city attorney. My sources are highly credible.

For the record, I am attaching a copy of the letter from Rick Solum on which my statements were based. Please place this letter in the minutes of this meeting.

Thank you.


Arlene Fried”

Don Siggelkow sent this in response to Fried’s request:

"Dear Arlene,

You requested at open time last night that the Board minutes from July 15th be amended. As you know, minutes are approved by the Board and any amendment to minutes that were already approved would require a Board action. I will be including your letter in the September 16th meeting agenda in petitions and communications and it will be part of the public record for that meeting.

As a side note, I think it is a major break through that you understand that making false statements during open time is blatantly wrong and discrediting individuals during open time that cannot respond to the false statements is inappropriate. I will suggest to our Standards and Conduct Chair that we consider amending the rules to prohibit the use of open time comments to discredit and disparage individuals and that information provided must be backed up by fact, not opinion. Some would view this restriction as impeding freedom of speech, but it sounds as though you and I agree that making false statements and damaging reputations are an abuse of the open time purpose. Now if we can just get the blogs to abide by those same guidelines, we would really be making progress in civility and respect in our community!

Thank you for your input!

Don Siggelkow
General Manager
Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board"

Fried responded:

From: Arlene Fried []
Sent: Wednesday, September 09, 2009 8:41 PM
To: Siggelkow, Don
Subject: Beware of Amending the Rules Regarding Free Speech
Importance: High

"Dear Don,

In regard to your September 3 e-mail to me, it is apparent that you misunderstood my September 2, 2009, Open Time request.

I was not asking to amend the July 15 minutes. I was asking that my written remarks and Judge Rick Solum's letter, which I handed to both Tom and Mike (to give to you), be included in the official record of the September 2 MPRB meeting.

My directions were clearly stated in my written remarks. They are as follows: "For the record I am attaching a copy of the letter from Rick Solum on which my statements were based. Please place this letter in the minutes of this meeting."

(I am including after my signature the full text of the remarks that I read and submitted last Wednesday.)

As for your suggestion that the Park Board censor citizens who wish to express opinions about their government, I believe that it would be unwise and unconstitutional for the Park Board to amend the rules for the purpose of limiting free speech; and doing so could be very embarrassing for the Park Board.

Therefore, I hope that you will rethink suggesting to the Chair of Standards and Conduct that the committee amend the rules.

Arlene Fried"
(the bold is highlighted by Fried)

Don responds:

"Dear Arlene,
“Please place this letter in the minutes of this meeting” was your request that was highlighted in green and submitted during the meeting. I must be taking your request literally to mean that you wanted that letter placed in the minutes of the meeting. There are balances to free speech such as slander and libel that protect private individuals and public officials. Are you suggesting that the Board allow slanderous and libelous comments to be made against public officials or private individuals during open time? I have heard second hand that a former elected official had suggested to you that your remarks about some public officials were slanderous – so I am just trying to verify your opinion on how far your beliefs on freedom of speech go in regards to expressing freedom of speech. I intend to move the concept forward to Standards and Conduct that the Board prohibit slanderous or libelous comments against private individuals or public officials during open time. Do you oppose that position?"

Don Siggelkow
General Manager
Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

Justin Fay on todays court ruling.

In response to today's court decision regarding the independent parks question, the Citizens for Independent Parks committee would like to make the following statement:

We are deeply disappointed that Minneapolis voters have been denied the right to determine the future of their parks, lakes, and open spaces. While we strongly disagree with today's decision, the need to ensure the best possible leadership for our public lands and waters remains critical for the future health of our city. An independent park board would provide the best protection for our park system and the most accessibility for city residents. We intend to continue working to ensure that our children and grandchildren inherit the park system that they deserve. We truly believe the citizens of Minneapolis have the constitutional right to decide how to best protect the parks. We intend to appeal this decision and believe that the courts ultimately will give the citizens the right to decide.


Justin Fay
Campaign Manager
Citizens for Independent Parks

Friday, September 4, 2009

What planet are you from Arlene Fried?

Many people sent us a copy of this E-mail which was sent to Arlene Fried and all the Park Commissioners. The letter addresses Fried’s request to have a statement added to counter a comment that Tommy Johnson made in an open session time during a July meeting. Tommy’s exact statement can be found in another post on this blog:

“Dear Arlene,
You requested at open time last night that the Board minutes from July 15th be amended. As you know, minutes are approved by the Board and any amendment to minutes that were already approved would require a Board action. I will be including your letter in the September 16th meeting agenda in petitions and communications and it will be part of the public record for that meeting.

As a side note, I think it is a major break through that you understand that making false statements during open time is blatantly wrong and discrediting individuals during open time that cannot respond to the false statements is inappropriate. I will suggest to our Standards and Conduct Chair that we consider amending the rules to prohibit the use of open time comments to discredit and disparage individuals and that information provided must be backed up by fact, not opinion. Some would view this restriction as impeding freedom of speech, but it sounds as though you and I agree that making false statements and damaging reputations are an abuse of the open time purpose. Now if we can just get the blogs to abide by those same guidelines, we would really be making progress in civility and respect in our community!
Thank you for your input!

Don Siggelkow
General Manager
Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board”

The irony of having Fried complain about someone making “false” statements is apparently not lost on Mr. Siggelkow. In several previous meetings Fried and her cohorts at Park watch have made claims that seem to counter with facts and in one case she had to be cut off by Board Chair Olson because she was so far out of line.

Watching the exchange between Olson and Fried reminded me of the exchange between Barney Frank and the tea bagger at a health care town hall last month. All that was missing was Olson asking Fried: “what planet are you from?”

What followed was park watch accusing the Park Board of restricting “free speech”, a rallying cry now picked up by several of Park Watch’s favorite candidates like co founder Wielinski, Guest and Stone.

What Fried is fighting for is the right to make any statement without regard to facts and to prohibit someone with facts from contradicting her. She has to win because Park Watch would hate to be encumbered by providing facts and truth in its statements.

Indeed Park watch is to the MPRB what the tea baggers are to the health care debate; loud, aggressive and factually challenged.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Fried wants MPRB to help her rewrite history

Park Watch co founder Arlene Fried has requested that a statement be added to the public record. A hearing on this matter will be conducted at the next MPRB meeting this month, once again proving the point that time and taxpayer’s dollars are wasted by Park Watch:

Fried was bothered by this statement:

"Mr. President, Ms. Vice President, Commissioners: My name is Tommy Johnson. Most of you know me as TwoPutt Tommy. I am a blogger at MNProgressiveProject. I am here to speak about blogging, ParkWatch, and a little bit about Crown Hydro.
MNProgressiveProject is a group of bloggers that speak for no one but ourselves. We cover issues all over the state of Minnesota. Like all reputable blogs, we try to follow something loosely called the Blogger's Code of Ethics. There are two basic elements we go by.

First, be honest in gathering, reporting and interpreting information. This means checking facts. One of the tenets of this guideline is to distinguish between advocacy, commentary and factual information. Even advocacy writing and commentary should not misrepresent fact or context.

Second, be accountable. We admit our mistakes, and correct our posts.
In the course of my blogging, I covered the issue of Crown Hydro, and became aware of ParkWatch. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is covered extensively by the blog ParkWatch, and they are also activists against certain projects, such as Crown Hydro. On June 17th a blogger from ParkWatch addressed the Park Board and posted said comments on their blog.

I made a brief blog post about this on Friday, June 19th - I brefly touched on Park Watch's comments, but didn't get into specifics. Tonight, I'd like to.

On June 17th, a Park Watch member, Arlene Fried, made the following comments:
She said, and I quote: "We know that the public will lose control over St. Anthony Falls to a private developer and the FERC. No one can predict water flows over the next 50 to 100 years, and an EAW will not enlighten you on this topic. The FERC will have the authority to let the Falls run dry in order to produce energy."

This is completely at odds with what the FERC License says. The FERC license Article 309 requires Crown Hydro to work with the other water users on a flow plan. (1) They did this. (2) There are 4 water users at this elevation, the City, the Army Corps and Xcel Energy. Crown Hydro has last use. First to turn off, last to turn on, and will never run at times of low flow. Article 404 (3) requires them to have a plan to implement this. And finally, the lease terms negotiated by the Park Board indicate the Park Board has control of water diversion when flows are at 1000 cfs or below. (4) This lease term becomes part of the FERC license, in essence, fully enforceable federal law. Some people might call what Ms. Fried said untrue; I'll simply say the license contradicts what she said.

The second statement she made, and I quote: "We know that a FERC hydropower license will preempt local control of historic preservation issues."
Again, completely at odds with everything I've read. This is local park land, on a federal waterway, in part of a national park. The Minneapolis Heritage Preservation office will work with the State Historic Preservation Office and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to create a Programmatic Agreement that addresses historic preservation issues. Some people might call what Ms. Fried said untrue; I'll simply say the record contradicts what she said.

I hope the ParkWatch blog accepts these fact corrections and edits their blog accordingly.
1 - pages 10 and 17 of FERC License, 19 March 1999
2 - System-Wide Low-Flow Management Plan, Mississippi River above St. Paul, revised 11 March 2004
3 - pages 10 and 20 of FERC License, 19 March 1999
4 - Crown Hydro Proposed Lease Term Sheet

Note: We had incorrectly asserted that Arlene Fried had asked for Mr. Johnson’s statement be removed from the public record. We amended this post to correctly show that Fried has asked to have a statement added to the previously approved minuets.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Commissioner Vreeland admits he steals plank road bolts!

In the Star and Tribune today they had this to say about Plank road:

“Oak and pine hold up many a Minnesota home, but they aren't holding up as road-building materials.
A 600-foot section of old-fashioned plank road, which opened less than six years ago on the Minneapolis riverfront, has surprised drivers with its slippery-when-wet surface and the rumbles the boards make when tires roll over them. Now the loosening planks and other safety and maintenance concerns have led the city's Park and Recreation Board to decide to close that stretch while it figures out what to do.

"I have bolts that I have picked up along there that have come out," said Scott Vreeland, the Minneapolis park commissioner whose district includes the plank road. "I could show you the boards where they rattle."

Everyone who lives by or uses this bridge has known what a problem this is. It’s in Scott Vreeland’s district yet it seems the only thing he has done about this problem is figure out which boards rattle and pick up some lose bolts. The least he could have done was give the bolts to one of the parks maintenance people to put them back. What he should have done was to propose to pave this road. He’s been in office for 4 years now, what is he waiting for? Vreeland spoke against paving this road at last months board meeting.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Another SW Journal piece.

Independent parks initiative heads to court

By Cristof Traudes

// The City Council rejected a citizen petition to ask voters in November to make the Park Board a fully independent body. The petitioners promptly filed suit. //

The initiative to make the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board a financially independent body has landed in court.

A citizens’ group representing a push to reshape the Park Board as a fully separate local governmental unit filed a lawsuit Aug. 28 against the city of Minneapolis, after the City Council voted 11-2 not to place a referendum on the Nov. 3 ballot. The group had just successfully completed a petition drive — gathering 17,046 signatures, of which at least 10,449 were certified — and the issue appeared headed to voters this fall.

But deputy city attorney Peter Ginder told the council that the group’s question could be unconstitutional. It’s not legal, he said, for one local government to create another.

In a 10-page memorandum, Ginder wrote that the petition could be rejected because the issue is preempted by state law and conflicts with state public policy. Furthermore, if the referendum were approved in November, the Park Board would still have to wait until the next legislative session before finding out exactly how their new body of government would operate.

“As the board sits today, they don’t know what they’re creating,” Ginder said.

Council Member Betsy Hodges (13th Ward) said several times before the council’s vote that its decision wasn’t going to be about the content of the petition’s question.

“The question before us is a matter of law,” Hodges said during an emotionally charged meeting. “It’s about law. … We’ve been told in no uncertain terms by our attorney that this is unlawful.”

The petitioners, represented by a citizen group calling itself Citizens for Independent Parks, quickly shot back, promptly filing a lawsuit against the city. They are hoping a Hennepin County District Court will hear their case and rule quickly so the issue can still get before voters this fall. The deadline to get a question on the ballot is Sept. 11.

Former City Council Member Pat Scott, one of the faces of the petition effort, said the council’s decision was disappointing but not surprising.

“It’s unfortunate Pandora’s box was opened,” she said. “But it was opened by them.”

The other side

While Ginder argued the legal, appropriate route to create an independent Park Board would be to lobby the state Legislature, the petitioners said there already is room in state law for more independence.

Their side will be litigated by Fred Morrison, a University of Minnesota law professor who is considered a preeminent mind in local government law. Morrison is expected to argue that because the Park Board’s independently elected board was created in 1883 — before the creation of Minneapolis’ city charter — it can petition for more power. Ginder’s opinion that the referendum would illegally create a new local governmental unit doesn’t apply because technically, the modified Park Board wouldn’t really be new, Morrison wrote in an Aug. 19 letter to the petitioners.

“Your amendment does no more than what the Legislature actually did in 1883 and 1889,” he wrote.

Some council members struggled with what to do. Several appeared to sway, wondering whether to consider Morrison’s side with as much weight as Ginder’s opinion.

Council Member Cam Gordon (2nd Ward) implied several times that it seemed as if the council really was voting on the petition’s content. The city isn’t showing faith in its residents, Gordon said.

Those words set off Council Member Scott Benson (11th Ward), who pointed to Gordon’s opposition earlier this year to put to a citizen vote a charter amendment proposed by Council Member Paul Ostrow (1st Ward) to eliminate the Park Board.

“Nobody had faith in the people to decide that issue,” Benson said.

Ostrow also chimed in, vehemently opposing the ballot initiative.

“This is not legal,” he said. “This is not constitutional. And I frankly think it would be the height of cynicism to put this on the ballot.”

Council members Sandy Colvin Roy (12th Ward) and Gordon dissented.

Already a struggle

Even before the council’s decision to deny the petition, the Park Board’s commissioners were fighting an uphill battle with fellow politicians in Minneapolis.

The Charter Commission, which with citizen petitions usually plays little more than a handing-off role, moved the ballot measure to the City Council with a begrudging attitude. It attached a note to the council recommending against putting the question on the ballot.

Just a week earlier, while drafting a resolution to set out the principles it would follow if voters were to make them independent, the Park Board made several statements that directly attacked the biggest questions its initiative has faced. An early draft said, “It has never been nor ever will be the intent of the Park and Recreation Board to seek unlimited taxing authority.”

That appeared directly targeted at Mayor R.T. Rybak, who several commissioners said was making false claims to campaign against their initiative. Rybak has said the Park Board would gain unlimited taxing authority if the initiative succeeds, while also calling the effort “half-baked” and saying it’s based on “false fears about non-existent threats.”

Board Vice President Mary Merrill Anderson said the unlimited taxing authority argument is part of an “aggressive campaign of misinformation.” The state would set limits for how much the Park Board could tax, she said.

Of course, it would first need a victory in court.

The ballot question

A petition to place a referendum for a fully independent Park Board was rejected Aug. 28 by the City Council, but the question could still end up on the Nov. 3 ballot if its supporters win in court. The charter amendment would read:

“The Minneapolis Park and Recreation board shall be separate and independent governmental unit of the state of Minnesota with an elected board of commissioners. The Park and Recreation Board shall preserve and protect park land, lakes and open spaces as a public trust forever and shall have all powers and rights of a separate and independent governmental unit of the state as determined by the state legislature. The Mayor of Minneapolis shall have the right to veto the Park and Recreation Board’s legislative actions and budget, subject to the ability of Park Board to override a veto by two-thirds (2/3rds) vote.”

Friday, August 28, 2009

City Council to voters: No!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Citizens Take Action to Protect Constitutional Rights

Supporters of an independent Park Board, including two former Minneapolis Mayors, have filed suit against the City of Minneapolis to ensure that a proposed amendment to the City Charter is placed on the ballot this November.

The action comes after the Minneapolis City Council voted not to place the proposed amendment on the ballot. A petition requesting the amendment, which would declare the Park Board to be a “separate and independent governmental unit”, was submitted to the City with over 17,000 signatures on August 10.

“We are deeply disturbed that a majority of the City Council feels empowered to thumb their noses at thousands of citizens exercising their Constitutional right to petition for Charter change,” said Scott Neiman, chair of the Citizens for Independent Parks Committee (CFIP), which led the petition drive. “We believe strongly that the Council does not have the authority to refuse this petition,” added Neiman, “City residents have asked for a chance to vote on this issue, and we intend to make sure that happens.”

An opinion recently issued by University of Minnesota Law School Professor Fred Morrison maintains that the petition meets all legal requirements, and that the state Constitution requires the City to place the petition question on the November ballot.

Along with Neiman, a former President of the Minneapolis Park Board, the five Electors who led the petition drive include former Mayor and Congressman Don Fraser, former Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton, former City Council Member Pat Scott, and former County Commissioner Mark Andrew. Over 250 volunteers participated in the petition drive, which began in early July.

For questions or additional press inquiries please contact Justin Fay at (612) 251-1457.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

They’re at it again

A Park watch member posted a letter to the Minneapolis Issues List objecting to the treatment Park Watch receives on this blog.

As always from this group there are a number of distortions and misrepresentations which is why we started this blog in the first place. Last week the poster got hit pretty badly on the Issues List when she posted a comment blaming children’s parks for causing parking fees.

Another poster then commented that she would no longer be able to ride her bike at a park if they took away her free parking. It was then pointed out that the parks had always had fees for parking.

Now we are told that pointing out the stuff that they make up is “an attack on free speech”.

We are not attacking their right to say anything. We are attacking the distortions and factual errors that often come out of this group. Their right to free speech is matched by our right to point out when they are wrong.

I’m sorry if she thinks we cleaned up our act. We haven’t! The original post with our reason for starting this blog can still be found here. The characters of Park Watch are still here in the archives. The home page side bar will continually change.

Frankly the five old ladies that Fitzgerald claims are Park Watch might just be the meanest five old ladies in Minneapolis, and we will continue to point that out.

They have tried to destroy the careers and lives of really good people, and have used false and misleading statements to do so. We have pointed them out. They have never retracted a story even when proven wrong. Their site is about destroying people.

We have pointed out the hundreds of thousands of dollars that these folks have cost the taxpayers without a single benefit being provided.

Park Watch is completely negative in their approach to anything park related. We are not.

This is the only site where candidates were asked to answer questions and many did and continue to do so. We have said that we will publish any answers they offer and if they chose not to answer then we will go to their websites and publications and try to obtain the answers because we think you should have the answers before you vote.

We are not surprised that Park Watch would praise candidates who chose not to publicly state positions by answering our questions. We hope the voters won’t let them get away with it.

From Southwest Journal: Election could spell end for Park Board watchdogs

Below is the content of an article from the current issue of the Southwest Journal, August 24-September 6, 2009.

Election could spell end for Park Board watchdogs
By Cristof Traudes

Bob Fine is a longtime commissioner on the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. Arlene Fried is a watchdog who often calls out Fine for his actions.

The two almost never see eye to eye, but this year is different. In rare agreement, they want the same thing in 2010: for Park Watch, Fried’s watchdog group, to come to an end.

Of course, they disagree on how to get to that point.

Fine, a 12-year veteran of the Park Board, considers Park Watch trouble. He’s had a long-standing belief that the group does little more than find fault, taking up too much of Park Board commissioners’ and staff’s time while sowing unfounded seeds of wrong-doing in commissioners’ minds.

He cites the hundreds of open-records requests filed by Park Watch members since the group’s formation in 2004. Park Watch members accounted for more than half of 275 data requests since late 2006. To fill those requests — which have ranged from asking for video footage of meetings to wanting all information, letters and e-mails applying to one or multiple topics — can take many hours of staff time, said John Goodrich, who oversees the Park Board’s responses.

Fine also points to frequent prodding on such issues as the recent Lake Calhoun south shore parking lot makeover, a project that parks staff has continuously referred to as maintenance but Park Watch members are convinced is a capital upgrade.

Fine dislikes Park Watch so much, he only refers to them as Park Fault. “To me, what’s most important is to see the Park Board not controlled by these groups. I don’t think have the best interest of the Park Board in mind,” he said.

When he announced in July that he was running for another term on the Park Board, he said one of his main motivations was to prevent the arrival of more commissioners who listen to Park Watch. Prevent that, he said, and maybe the group will have little to no influence next year.

He has an uphill battle: For the first time, two Park Watch affiliates, people who have personally filed numerous data requests and have attended Park Board meetings for years, are seeking seats on the board. One of them, District 4’s Anita Tabb, is practically a lock to win — nobody else filed to run in her race.

Fried couldn’t be happier. If Park Watch co-founder Liz Wielinski, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party’s endorsed candidate for District 1, also were to win, Fried said there’s a good possibility her watchdog group won’t be necessary anymore. The reason for all of the group’s data practices requests is that the current Park Board commissioners aren’t getting all of the information they need and aren’t asking for it, either, Fried said. Wielinski and Tabb already know to ask questions, which she expects them to continue to do if they were on the board. “We would finally have a board that really supports the basics of good government,” Fried said.

Tabb anticipates still talking to Park Watch if she were seated, although she’s hesitant about being referred to as a Park Watch candidate. She isn’t endorsed by the group — unlike in 2005, it won’t endorse anybody this year — and she said she never officially was a member. But she said she does listen to and respect the group. Its members, Tabb said, genuinely care about the future of the parks. “I expect all of those relationships to continue,” she said.

Wielinski doesn’t expect her work on the board to be much different from what she does now. Her goal with Park Watch, she said, always was to steer the Park Board in a better direction. Yes, that could take on a negative tone, but the job isn’t to celebrate accomplishments.
“It’s a watchdog group,” Wielinski said. “It’s not P.R. for the Park Board.”

When asked what she thought having Tabb and Wielinski elected to the board would mean, Fried sounded near ecstatic.

“I’d have to laugh,” she said. “We’d have two of our people right there, on the board.” For Park Watch, it would be “mission accomplished,” she said.

—What is Park Watch?
Park Watch is a watchdog group that tracks the actions of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. Its members say they’ve improved civic discourse by drawing attention to votes that otherwise might have passed with little public comment; critics accuse them of spreading disinformation and intimidating parks staff.
The group formed in the wake of the Park Board’s hiring of Superintendent Jon Gurban, who had neither applied for the job nor gone through a screening process. Members take notes at meetings and then disseminate selected information and analysis through its blog, letters to the editor and on the online Minneapolis Issues List.
Arlene Fried, the most vocal of Park Watch’s co-founders, often speaks in strong terms when describing the Park Board, especially when it comes to high-level staff. Her words of choice include “egregious” and “outrageous.”

Candidate Questionnaire: Steve Barland

1. Why are you running to be a Commissioner on the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board?
While I am a newcomer to the political campaign scene, I am no stranger to our beloved Park System. The next few years promise to be some of the most difficult local governments have faced in memory. The residents of this district will need a dedicated, experienced representative who will champion and protect the places and programs that contribute to our celebrated quality of life. I possess a lifelong track record of playing, growing and leading in our parks and will be an unflagging advocate for them, and the residents that cherish them, as a member of the Park Board. Accidently

2. How would you describe the “job” of a park commissioner? What are the most important roles and responsibilities?
A Minneapolis Park Commissioner is one of nine elected members that comprise the policy board that oversees the professional staff as it carries out the complex mission of the Park and Recreation system. A commissioner must find balance between her/his responsibilities as a steward of our parks and open space and charge to maintain and enhance recreational opportunities for all Minneapolis residents. An effective commissioner is one that stays above the fray of the petty politics that have tarnished this fine organization’s image in some quarters. A commissioner elected from a district must take special care to work in consort with the citizens in that district to represent their interests as policy and funding.

3. Are you running on a “reform” platform, or not? Please explain, be specific.
The “R” word I prefer is represent. I am not a product of a self-appointed interest group nor am I just another cog in a rusty political machine. My entire adult life as been spent as a participant and contributor to our parks, in our parks. I can make good on my pledge to work with Park Councils, parent groups and other advocates from this district because I am one of them.

4. Do you support or oppose the proposed referendum for Park Board independence? Please explain.
I am a strong supporter of the initiative to make the Park and Recreation Board a completely independent entity. I believe that the rancor that some direct towards those who sought to fold the Park Board into the City is misplaced and typical of the sour politics that turns voters off. In fact they did Minneapolis a favor, this move for promised but unproven efficiency literally untied voters in favor of the independence which has served our City in extraordinary fashion since MPRB was established. To the chagrin of some of my active supporters instead of campaigning for myself, I spent many hours working with other volunteers in the parks seeking signatures so that the issue would make it to the ballot. Congratulations are due all those who made the effort a success.

5. What experience do you have that qualifies you to serve on a board of an organization that has a $60 million budget, 600 full time employees, 1300 part time employees and controls 6400 acres of park land?
As I outlined in question #2 a commissioner is one of nine and must first and foremost have an ability to work constructively with others. I have thirty years of experience balancing park related budgets, compromising when needed but never where principle is at stake. I am not well known at the ubiquitous cocktail fundraisers around the City but voters can check out my reputation with any of the hardworking members of park councils in the district. The other measure of qualification I believe is that by November I will have knocked on the doors of every voter in District Five. My position is that the next years will be among the most difficult MPRB has ever seen. The voters will be clear that as the inevitable cuts begin to mount that I will do everything I can to protect our neighborhood recreation centers and the programs they house. There is no better qualification for elected office than letting voters know exactly where you stand on critical issues.

6. What is your view on how the MPRB should approach public/private partnerships, “enterprise” or income-generating projects?
Since its inception the Park Board has relied in some fashion on enterprises outside of traditional tax revenue for financial support. Some, like our golf courses have been run internally with great success. Others, like Sea Salt at Minnehaha, are private parties providing a win win for themselves and the public. I think the policy board and staff are completely capable of weighing opportunities individually in a productive and transparent environment.

7. While employee morale remains high, there has been an acrimonious relationship between some of the members of the board and the staff and even between board members themselves. Why do you think this is, and what if anything would you do to improve these relationships?
Since I announced my candidacy I have been focused on the issues and on introducing myself to individual voters and groups of interested citizens. It is crystal clear that I will owe allegiance to no one but the taxpayers once elected. I have eschewed public endorsements from politicians because, in part, I am weary of the games they play in the pursuit of personal power. I cherish my professional relationships with the staff that deliver wonderfully across the neighborhoods I seek to represent. They are witness, I believe, to my integrity and focus on the mission. This election is important; the stakes in the wake of extraordinary times are extraordinarily high. The professional staff will be well served knowing that I will be a commissioner whose priorities are clear and well stated and that I will always put the grand legacy of the organization before personal political gain.

8. There is a general perception that the MPRB has sometimes had strained relationships with other organizations (City, County). What is your perception and how will you approach these relationships?
There is nothing that beats a fresh start!!!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Well Done!

Here's a copy of the press release:

City Verifies Signatures on Citizens’ Petition

The Minneapolis Elections Department has completed the work of verifying that a citizens’ petition submitted last week does contain the required number of signatures to place a proposed City Charter Amendment on the November 3 general election ballot.

The proposed amendment would establish the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board as a separate and independent unit of government. Leaders supporting the petition drive include former Mayors Don Fraser and Sharon Sayles Belton, former City Councilmember Pat Scott, former Minneapolis Park Board President Scott Neiman, and former County Commissioner Mark Andrew.

In order to place an amendment to the City Charter on the ballot, proponents were required to gather signatures from 10,449 registered Minneapolis voters. The petition was submitted on August 10, and the process of verifying signatures began the following day. The verification is considered unofficial until acted upon by the Charter Commission, which is now required to formally transmit the petition to the City Council.

“We appreciate the hard work of the City Clerk’s office and the City Elections Department staff to complete this task in a timely manner,” said Neiman, who is acting as chair for the Citizens’ campaign, “The voters have requested a chance to decide this issue, and we hope that the Charter Commission will act quickly to keep this process moving forward.”

At the request of the City Council, the Charter Commission is expected to hold a special meeting before August 27 to formally transmit the petition to the City Council. The next regularly scheduled City Council meeting is August 28.

For questions or additional press inquiries please contact Justin Fay at (612) 251-1457.

A Beautiful Stained Glass Window

We here at Park Watch Watch recently received an e-mail from a follower that contained this suggestion,

"How about you report on positive things the park board and park commissioners are doing?

I see you have a 'misbehavior report' and I figure that is a sarcastic poke at Park Watch's disrespectful use of the word 'misbehavior' to describe the actions of adult commissioners. It is kind of funny, but don't be tempted to stoop to their level. Instead, report some good news. The way I see it, we are all working hard and we are under stress, what with war, healthcare, economy, schools, jobs, crime, you name it. When an organization like Park Watch does nothing but put out bad news, criticism, insults, and negativity, it lowers the tide and lowers all boats, so to speak. It's the worst of human nature when all these real problems exist, that these sad people would pick on something as good as our park system.

So send us some glad tidings!"

In that spirit, above is a photo of something new and beautiful in the parks. Does anyone know where it is? Does anyone know who initiated it? More to follow.....

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Candidate Questionnaire: Bob Fine

1. Why are you running to be a Commissioner on the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board?
I decided to file for a city wide seat instead of my safe District seat, where I have lived my entire life and coached more than 1,000 kids over the past 35 years because of the most important issue facing the greatest urban park system in America, its independence! This system has been threatened from both within and without. First are those who are attempting to end the independence of this system. Then there are the forces, not so apparent, that have made it their object to find fault with a Park organization which has done a great job maintaining a system despite the limitations on its resources.

2. How would you describe the “job” of a park commissioner? What are the most important roles and responsibilities?
Our primary responsibility is to establish a vision as well as budget priorities for the system, and to ensure we have the resources to carry it out. My background and experience will be important to help us meet these challenges.

3. Are you running on a “reform” platform, or not? Please explain, be specific.
No. Reform is a term being used by the groups that spend their time unfairly criticizing the system.

4. Do you support or oppose the proposed referendum for Park Board independence? Please explain.
Support 100%! This system is the way it is because of its independence, and to end its financial independence will have a negative effect over the long term.

5. What experience do you have that qualifies you to serve on a board of an organization that has a $60 million budget, 600 full time employees, 1300 part time employees and controls 6400 acres of park land?
I have lived my entire life in Minneapolis, worked in the system while in college and coached over a 1,000 kids over the past 35 years. I have served the community for over three decades, including 12 years on the Board (the first four city-wide), serving as its President, spent 18 years on the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commissioner, the Zoning Board and numerous other Boards and committees. I am a real estate attorney and worked over a decade in business and management.

6. What is your view on how the MPRB should approach public/private partnerships, “enterprise” or income-generating projects?
Income-generating projects are critical to our long-term sustainability. However, the most important thing to keep in mind is our mission, and that is to preserve for our parks and provide recreational opportunities for current and future generations.

7. While employee morale remains high, there has been an acrimonious relationship between some of the members of the board and the staff and even between board members themselves. Why do you think this is, and what if anything would you do to improve these relationships?
This perception dates back to a previous board. One of the former members, part of that acrimonious group, is again seeking election to the Board. I have good relationships with staff and colleagues. This is an effort by the fault groups to falsely portray the system and the Board.

8. There is a general perception that the MPRB has sometimes had strained relationships with other organizations (City, County). What is your perception and how will you approach these relationships?
The only perception of strained relationships is with the City (not the schools), which has officials who have either criticized the Park system or sought to end its independence. Relationships with the other agencies have been good. We have taken some bold initiatives, with the new Comprehensive Plan for the long term vision, new parks and facilities, changes along the upper riverfront, completing the Grand Rounds, and unique public/private partnerships. We need to establish our independence and continue to work with the city on the partnerships with them, as we have with the other government officials, for the good of the city.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Candidate Questionnaire: Mary Merrill Anderson

1. Why are you running to be a Commissioner on the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board?
Parks & Recreation are my passion, my life’s work. I believe in the many benefits that Parks and Recreation provide the city that I love and live in and I believe that I have the necessary background (over 32 years as a Professional in the field of Parks and Recreation - from Park Director to Superintendent) and experience as a Park Commissioner At Large to make a significant contribution to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. I want serve as an at-large, or city-wide commissioner, so I represent every resident and park user. I am also a strong advocate for children, People with Disabilities, communities of color, the environment and safe parks. I’m running for my second term to continue this essential advocacy.

2. How would you describe the “job” of a park commissioner? What are the most important roles and responsibilities?
The role of the Board is to represent the residents of Minneapolis as they set the overall vision, mission and goals and develop the policies that implement that mission, vision and goals for the entire park and recreation system. The board hires a Superintendent to implement the mission, vision and goals of the Board and to manage the Park and Recreation System. The commissioners provide strong advocacy for the Park & Recreation system, working with citizens, community groups, businesses, foundations and other units of government in the provision of Park & Recreation Services and shared areas of responsibility. The Park Commissioner is accountable to the voters of Minneapolis for its stewardship of the Park & Recreation System.

3. Are you running on a “reform” platform, or not? Please explain, be specific.
I sincerely believe in robust citizen participation, and I know from experience that every organization can, in fact, must strive for constant progress and improvement. The Minneapolis park system is one of best in the world, our board is strong, and our organization is outstanding. In order to maintain a strong Park & Recreation System we must always be looking to respond to new and changing needs, which means the system must adapt and change to continue meeting the needs of Minneapolis Residents. The Board's Comprehensive Plan is a dynamic strategy based on citizen participation and direction, leading to better meeting the needs of residents.

4. Do you support or oppose the proposed referendum for Park Board independence? Please explain.
I strongly support it. A strong independent and elected Park Board ensures that a strong park system is and has been at the root of Minneapolis as a strong and healthy city. Maintaining and reaffirming the independence of the 126 year old Park Board created by the State Legislature and the Voters of Minneapolis will allow us to better protect, preserve and enhance the Park and Recreation system. Maintaining the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board as a national model for land stewardship, environmental leadership and vital recreational programs will make Minneapolis more successful, and one of the best cities in the country to live in.

5. What experience do you have that qualifies you to serve on a board of an organization that has a $60 million budget, 600 full time employees, 1300 part time employees and controls 6400 acres of park land?
Since 1972, when I graduated from the University of Minnesota, I have spent every day of my life working in and for the Minneapolis Parks. I have been a Recreation Center Director, Training Coordinator, Citywide Manager of Recreation programs, Assistant Superintendent for Recreation & Administration, Park Board Secretary and Superintendent of the MPRB. I have also pursued continuing education and executive development, including NRPA Certified Park and Recreation Professional. I have served as the President of Minnesota Recreation & Park Association and the NRPEMS and other National Park & Recreation organizations. Locally I have also served the community through numerous community organizations and boards including: Hope Community, Pacer Center, Minneapolis Youth Trust, NAACP, Urban League, City’s Children 2007, and Parent Advisory Council on Latch Key Minneapolis.

6. What is your view on how the MPRB should approach public/private partnerships, “enterprise” or income-generating projects?
I believe in today’s economic environment we must be open to looking at new ways to generate revenue to help support the important mission of the Park & Recreation system. When looking at what should be our approach we should consider the following:
-What is the public purpose and need or desire?
-Can the service or program be provided by Park & Recreation staff in a manner that is cost effective and generate income?
-Is the service or program within the mission of the Park & Recreation Board?
-What are the public benefits to be derived?
I believe it is important to listen to citizens and residents of Minneapolis in a proactive way, sharing with them as we explore how we can ensure the future sustainability of the Park and Recreation System. We also need to proceed cautiously and continue to learn from our experiences. My main criteria for a successful project would be that it advances our mission to preserve our natural resources or add to our recreational opportunities. We need to both evaluate projects that are proposed to us, and proactively seek out projects, on our own terms, that are consistent with our Comprehensive Plan.

7. While employee morale remains high, there has been an acrimonious relationship between some of the members of the board and the staff and even between board members themselves. Why do you think this is, and what if anything would you do to improve these relationships?
I believe there has been significant improvement in relationships on the Board. I believe that Board members treat each other and staff in a respectful and civil manner. There are differences of opinion, which is healthy, but by and large, we have cordial and productive relationships. I believe that the current Board members love the Park & Recreation system and put their responsibility as Board members first.

8. There is a general perception that the MPRB has sometimes had strained relationships with other organizations (City, County). What is your perception and how will you approach these relationships?
My perception is that we have had very effective working relationships with other organizations. We have worked well with our State Legislature, and collaborated with the Metropolitan Council, the University of Minnesota, the city, the county and other organizations on some complicated projects, and were able to proceed successfully despite very divergent opinions and objectives. Even with the current situation regarding the Charter Amendment to reaffirm the independent and elected status of the Park Board, we are still working with the City on many issues of mutual concern, such as the Mississippi River. I believe that we can always work harder on having more joint meeting with other jurisdictions either annually or more often as needed as well as on joint commissions and boards.

Visit Mary's website at: