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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.