My Vision Being a Minneapolis Park Board Commissioner is a great responsibility. The Parks Board oversees a $110 million system, which includes 149 park properties, 102 miles of paths, 49 recreation centers, 22 lakes, 12 gardens and 7 golf courses. My top priorities are safety and relevant programming. What good is a beautiful, extensive park system if people don’t feel safe to get there or feel safe once they are there?
As we are blessed with a remarkable system, unfortunately many potential users will not experience it because they do not feel safe or see activities that speak to or empower them. Our city has grown and changed over the past decade. However, programming is still rooted in our past. Many young people, families and communities still believe the facilities and programs are irrelevant and unsafe.
We must find unique ways to rethink and expand how to keep our users and guests safe. As we feel safe, we can do great things if we work together for our children and families at the parks.
I will set the table and engage as many who feel left out of the process. We WILL commit to engaging ALL users in real time and work to see our collective success within each other. Once we do that, our kids will feel safe and increase their activities, in turn creating a safer, more just community.
Role of Governance of the Park Board As a Firefighter and EMT for the City, I understand the importance of a strong chain of command. The Board is the leader of this operation and must provide critical guidance and support for the enterprise’s leadership and its staff and volunteers, with the objective to provide the best service as a team for our community. As an enthusiastic user of our amenities, I can provide invaluable stories of recreational and environmental activities through my coaching, biking, hiking and general experiences. I would be honored to serve as a leader, advocate, thought and policy leader for the Minneapolis Parks that has given so much to my family. Thoughts on Recent Board Actions Our parks must catch up with the timesand the people of these times. Most of our programming is based in the decades of the past. This was clear with the slow response to the pandemic and the social unrest of the past two years. Please understand, this was the most difficult time in our community's history. However, the decision to shutter the center for many community youth was difficult. I wish they would have reconsidered with the proper protocols and expanding partnerships to support the staff and volunteers. As a first responder, I noticed right away the great inequities and strain our community experienced without the centers or some type of programming. Through that experience, new partnerships sprung up. We should find ways to cement those partnerships and expand our reach within our community.
"Parks for All" and Equitable Access and Investment I reviewed the Parks for All Comprehensive Plan* with several professionals and I am greatly concerned about this document. Not because of its intent, which reflects the remarkable size and challenges it's faced with, but because it's next to impossible to do any of it well.
We will need to reexamine and reduce the document giving us an opportunity to achieve better outcomes for our residents and guests from across the globe once the new Board is sworn-in. Vision for Changes/Improvement to Youth Programming One major thing the Board has not done well is to say “thank you” to our volunteers. I was blessed with working with PAL (Police Activities/Athletics League) and Hospitality House over 25 years. I noticed our volunteer coaches were acknowledged and encouraged to develop a stronger program, but the park volunteers were not. Needless to say we gained many volunteer coaches from the park system who have since moved away and started their own programs.
Our volunteers add great benefit for our kids and community. The value of these thousands of people from the community and beyond is incalculable. They are the backbone of our entire operation. We take our volunteers for granted and that will change on day one that I serve the board and our community.
Second, we must elevate the quality of the programming and connect it to our schools. Note - Minneapolis Public Schools is missing over 40% of its potential population. Which in-turn affects our numbers. Why, education is a part of the story. Parents select the education program in two parts, the educational program and the after-school activities. The hours of 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm are for our children’s safety and well-being. Our lack of connections (schools, parks and agencies) have generated part of this exodus. We must turn this tide around.
Racial Equity and Cultural Inclusion When I used the parks as a child, Minneapolis was over just under 93% white, now it is under 60%. However, our programs still reflect the time of my youth. This is unacceptable. The old buildings of my youth are still the backbone of the system. That too is unacceptable. We are not using the talent of the community to develop programs or professional services, instead we have turned to organizations outside the community and it is reflected in our numbers.
What is more concerning is the lack of diversity within the leadership of the administration. It does not reflect the city's population today or have the processes in place to encourage the next generation to become our leaders. This is the most concerning discovery. I have some experience in working with the fire department to develop the next generation of members in partnership with our technical colleges, public schools, and community agencies and partners to intentionally build our future leaders with kids from Minneapolis.
Funding and Investments We have very unique and dynamic public/private partnerships in place right now. The question is when do we add the people to the equation? Once the people feel they are actual partners there is an opportunity to build significant contributions from them. If we are just enterprise, all districts should have significant investment in partnership with the public schools and agencies during this cycle.
With that said, expanding new avenues of capital investment is critical to stabilize existing and develop new and relevant activities for emerging populations. We will need to reimagine how facilities are built to handle the changing climate challenges. Through these new opportunities, we can bring in potential new customers from across the region, local businesses can see unique opportunities and benefits leading to investment into events, programs and even infrastructure.
Climate/Environment and the Health of our Kids As a first responder who witnesses too many respiratory illnesses caused by poor air quality, we need to do everything we can to reduce and hopefully eliminate carbon within our community. We could have a great impact on our land and facilities across the region.
I join my community partners to expand planting of trees, cleaning our streets and drains, placing renewable energy assets on every structure, and sharing the power with community members. Also, we must find ways to encourage biking and clean mass transit options to move our participants around the city.