At Large

 Candidates

  • Charlie Casserly
  • Mike Derus
  • Meg Forney
  • Londel French (did not respond to questionnaire)
  • Russ Henry
  • Devin Hogan
  • Jonathan Mark Honerbrink
  • Bob Sullentrop
  • LaTrisha Vetaw

1. Introduction:

Please share a little about yourself to help voters get to know you.

Charlie Casserly
I was born, raised and am proud to still live in Minneapolis. I am 56 years old. I attended Minneapolis schools, both public and private. From John Ericsson, (now Northrop), to St. Helena’s grade school and Nokomis Jr. High. I graduated from Academy of the Holy Angels in Richfield. I received a B.A in Journalism at St. Thomas, and later earned a Master’s in Business there too. I work at Minnesota Continuing Legal Education as content coordinator. I am also Executive Director of the Twin Cities Beach Blast: we brought back the Milk Carton Boat Races and Sandcastle Competition to Minneapolis this year! I’ve been a small-business web designer for more than 18 years. I grew up across the street from Lake Hiawatha Park. It was a terrific place to be a kid. Growing up next to a park makes one feel like an owner, one takes pride in it. I picked up trash left behind by inconsiderate users. Every time I go for a run around Hiawatha I pick up trash.

Mike Derus
I am a lifetime DFLer born and raised in North Minneapolis. I love this City and its Parks so my wife, Sara, and I are raising our two young sons in the Fulton Neighborhood. I am a graduate of the University of St. Thomas. I spent over fifteen years financing community development programs such as SBA and New Markets Tax Credits in order to empower women and minority owned businesses via access to affordable financing. I now own a small business and I volunteer as a board member for the Minneapolis Riverfront Partnership and the Minneapolis Development and Finance Committee.

Meg Forney
I am in my first term as your city-wide Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) Commissioner — the only at-large woman incumbent. I have been advocating for parks and open spaces for year — first, when 13 elms were taken from my street’s boulevard. I was the co-chair for the Lake Harriet Bandstand, president of People for Parks, original board member of both the Midtown Greenway Coalition and Above the Falls Community Advisory Committee. Access for all is critical and I am a proven leader in eliminating barriers. Parks define the quality of life in our city. After all, Minneapolis is a city within a park.

Russ Henry
I am a single dad. I raised my 21 year old son on my own since he was 8. I am an organic landscaper and I’ve owned my own Minneapolis based business for 13 years. For 5 years I volunteered at the Homegrown Minneapolis Food Council as we worked on city, state, school board, and park board policies. I volunteered with a restorative justice organization for 5 years. I’m working to eliminate pesticides in our parks, expand the local food system in parks, and spend the park board dollars more equitably.

Devin Hogan
My name is Devin Hogan and I am 33 years old. I understand municipal finance and budgeting, and have visited all 49 Rec Centers. I have lived and worked in three states and three continents and have come to learn the only difference in global poverty is scale. I own a house but not a car. I am a renter. As a genderqueer person I understand what it feels like to be under attack just for existing. As a white elected official my role would be building solidarity to actively defeat white supremacy.

Jonathan Mark Honerbrink
I was born and raised By Mark and Dinah Honerbrink in North Minneapolis. I was the middle child between two sisters Valerie Schmidt and Adriane Honerbrink.
Growing up in North Minneapolis had many challenges as we were on government programs as my parents were looking for work and finishing college.

I graduated from Patrick Henry and then went onto Concordia St Paul. As I moved on from there I got involved in Home Depot development services with in their corporate structure. I moved around the country developing this program till I was twenty nine. I moved back home and started my own business after that and have been consulting and developing business structures for companies in the building and developing industry since. When I moved back I started to work with and serve the local community parks as a coach and mentor with kids. I have helped put together several programs and received over 100k in donations for our parks and will develop closer relations with private entities whether I am elected or not.

Bob Sullentrop
I am a Marine Corps veteran and a Viet Nam veteran. I graduated from the University of Minnesota with a B.S. degree in civil engineering and am a licensed professional engineer in Minnesota and Wisconsin. I worked for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for 6 years and have worked for several engineering firms over the years. My current employer is ITCO Allied Engineering Co. located in Savage.

LaTrisha Vetaw
My name is LaTrisha Vetaw. In my day job I work with youth in North Minneapolis at NorthPoint. I’ve worked to put policies, systems, and environmental change into place to make our city healthier. For example, I successfully advocated a comprehensive tobacco-free parks policy for the entire parks system. As a parks commissioner, I will work to make sure our parks are safe, healthy, and welcoming to everyone. I will also work to improve and expand the community engagement process by promoting new ways to engage the community to help bridge the gap between the Park Board and communities of color.

2. NPP2020 funding agreement

The Neighborhood Parks Plan 2020 (NPP2020) is a historic agreement between the MPRB and the City of Minneapolis bringing $11M annually to maintain, repair and replace neighborhood park facilities. A comprehensive equity matrix will be used to allocate the funds in order to help address racial and economic equity across all 160 neighborhood parks. As a commissioner, would you support the current agreement and methodology for allocation of the funds?

Charlie Casserly
I do support the Neighborhood Park Plan 2020. I wish the parks were managed better in the past so that this didn’t have to happen, but it did, and I will work hard to implement it fairly. I do support fair implementation of the funds across all neighborhood centers, however in poorer neighborhoods, the needs are greater.

Mike Derus
Growing up in North Minneapolis I witnessed inequity first hand.  I believe that there are parks in our City that require and deserve additional investment due to inherent inequity and resulting disparity.  As a result, I support the NPP2020 equity-based methodology.

Meg Forney
I was one of the lead Commissioners in securing these 20 years of funding for our neighborhood parks by building a large coalition of stakeholders. This historic ordinance, I indeed, support. MPRB inventoried all assets and condition, held extensive community outreach including the City’s elected officials to inform all of the need for consistent and robust public investment. I will continue to steward the plan to ensure families in our most vulnerable communities have high quality parks for years to come. The methodology using data of racially concentrated areas of poverty and asset condition will assure equitable distribution.

Russ Henry
I testified in front of City Council in favor of this plan. I also worked hard in the community to uplift, support, and pass the 2020 plan. The equity matrix is under ongoing review by community organizations who work directly on growing equity in parks. I’m interested in learning more from organizations working on equity issues in parks to make sure the equity matrix can continue to be effective in growing equity where it’s needed most, low income neighborhoods.

Devin Hogan
The NPP20 funding agreement is historic, in part, because of the huge amount of deferred maintenance accumulated over several decades of misplaced priorities. The NPP20 agreement brings our neighborhood parks into the shape they should have been all along, which lays a solid foundation but is nowhere near the investment necessary to redress historic levels of underinvestment in our public assets.

I fully support the current agreement and the MPRB Equity Matrix methodology for allocating money. This methodology has become a national model, and I am very proud of our staff for developing it. I am committed to using this model for decision-making under the Equity Resolution and Neighborhood Parks Plan. It is important we evaluate and improve our methodology as we learn and build year after year.

The Park Board will soon apply these tools to our Regional Parks. The natural subsequent step for this methodology is to develop projects that advance environmental justice. The Park Board recently signed a GIS contract, and in time we will have measurable environmental data suitable for examination. We can also use the matrix to analyze the operating budget, park programming and Rec Plus locations, rec center hours, and distribution of sporting options.

Jonathan Mark Honerbrink
I think it is a start, but I do not see the current finances as enough. What they have allocated for rebuilding is not efficient and does not do much for programming that would put a dent into the community buildings. I have created a 7 year plan of development that would create over five thousand jobs and structured growth pattern that would have no consequence to the tax payers of Minneapolis. In fact with the development that I will propose there will be less of a tax burden through disinvestment and energy restructuring.

Bob Sullentrop
I probably will support the plan, however I don’t know enough about it to make an absolute commitment without more details.

LaTrisha Vetaw
I fully support both the agreement and the methodology used to allocate funding. As a Parks Commissioner I would make sure that we follow the equity matrix to ensure that parks funding is distributed in a way that benefits the parks and neighborhoods with the most need.

3. Equity-based criteria for prioritizing investments

Few would dispute that historical inequities and opportunity gaps persist in America and Minneapolis today. What role, if any, do you think that the MPRB should play in combatting these inequities? What are the pros and cons of MPRB’s equity-based matrix assuring equitable improvement of neighborhood parks as the 20-year funding plan is implemented? As a commissioner, what actions will you support that will actively improve equity in the Minneapolis Park system?

Charlie Casserly
MPRB can combat inequity by repairing parks in the poorest neighborhoods, which need funds the most. This will be wonderful to repair worn-down buildings and equipment.

Mike Derus
I believe in prioritizing capital improvement funds to be invested in underserved parks throughout our City.  In addition to prioritization of investment, I believe we should be doing a better job of creating employment and training opportunities for Minneapolis kids.  The 2018 parks budget details that the MPRB will employ 956 FTEs next year.  That translates to many more actual employees.  I want to ensure that we are doing everything we can to utilize open positions at the MPRB as employment opportunities for our kids.

Meg Forney
MPRB has the opportunity to combat racial and economic inequities through the roll out of funding in the NPP2020. The merits of the equity-based matrix is that data drives the decision-making process versus political influence. Tracking impacts to the community such as crime reduction, jobs creation, housing stability and more will guide on-going investments. The interpretation of the data needs vetting and balance. We cannot “anticipate” the outcomes and need to be open-eyed with a diverse lens. Often mono-cultural interpretation can exclude others. So the diversity of staff is critical. Active recruitment of employees that reflect the community is essential.

Russ Henry
The MPRB can play an important roll in combatting inequities in Minneapolis. Parks uplift people’s lives. Parks provide access to a healthy lifestyle and this benefit of our park system needs to be distributed equitably. Low-income residents, recent immigrants, and people of color in Minneapolis should be the first recipients of new investment via our park system in order to create equity throughout the city. The equity matrix includes measures on Racially Concentrated Areas of Poverty, Population Density, Youth Population By Neighborhood, Neighborhood Safety, Neighborhood Park Characteristics, Asset Condition, Asset Lifespan, and Proportionality of Investment. These are excellent criteria for analyzing parks to determine the most needed areas for investment. If we take these criteria seriously and utilize them for decision-making processes then we’ll likely have better, more equitable outcomes from our investments as a park system.

Aside from the use of the equity matrix in decision making related to spending of the 2020 funds we need to look at hiring practices that have led to a workforce in which 75% of the salaried positions are held by white people. Part of the reason we have a disproportionately high number of white people in salaried positions is the fact that we require a 4 year degree to be a park director. This means that people who’ve worked for MPRB for years get passed up for jobs they are qualified to hold due to the lack of a 4 year degree. I believe we need to change our hiring and promotion practices to eliminate the 4 year degree requirement for park directors.

Devin Hogan
The MPRB has an obligation to address the historically inequitable allocations of public resources that have generated unjust social outcomes. We must divest from the systems that create inequities to begin with and invest in reparations like expanding childcare and preschool offerings at deeply discounted rates to underserved communities.

The MPRB must recognize it exists on stolen Dakota land. We must ground our public stewardship in the understanding of – and partnership with – those who were stewards of the land for millennia before us.

Three straight NAACP presidents have protested the MPRB over its historic legacy of racist employment and management practices. The NAACP is now boycotting(!) the Park Board after commissioners voted to arrest(!) four constituents during a contentious meeting in 2016. There is no excuse for not immediately addressing these issues. I am also committed to learning from other public organizations to find ways to provide advancement opportunities for long time career employees.

Jonathan Mark Honerbrink
Growing up in North Minneapolis as a person with many ethnic backgrounds I see the racial and economic disparity. I plan to help solve this through an educational program and the development mentioned above.

Bob Sullentrop
I don’t know of any inequities and therefore have no idea what actions I would take to improve equity.

LaTrisha Vetaw
As a black woman, I experience inequity firsthand. The first step to dealing with inequity is to get people who look like me at the table. The Park Board has a profound and important role to play in combatting the inequities people in our city face. Parks are an essential common good and all people deserve access to safe, clean, and healthy parks. As a Park Commissioner, I will work hard to bridge the divide between the Park Board and communities of color to ensure that our parks are meeting the needs of our diverse communities. I agree with the equity-based matrix for equitable funding of parks. The matrix is a data-driven solution to a complicated problem. However, I think that the Park Board needs to do a better job of explaining the matrix to community members- particularly community members of color. If elected, I will work hard to create spaces where the community can gain a clear understanding of how the matrix will improve neighborhood parks.

4. Commitment to the RiverFirst vision

While the Mississippi Riverfront is lined with parkland and public spaces through the Central Riverfront and Lower Gorge, North and Northeast Minneapolis have been cut off from and by the River because of the limited public access in the upper riverfront area. As a commissioner, how would you approach the community developed RiverFirst vision for transforming this segment of the river with new parks and trails as amenities to accessible jobs and homes in this area? What are your approaches to ensuring that nearby neighborhoods fully benefit from its development?

Charlie Casserly
I approve of what the Park Board has done so far to return access to the river. North and Northeast Minneapolis will benefit greatly from new parks and trails connecting the river to the neighborhoods. We’ll need more signs and more events.

Mike Derus
We should be envisioning the Mississippi riverfront as a dual coastline running through our City with exciting amenities and access for all.  I decided to run because I had been a board member of the Minneapolis Riverfront Partnership whose sole mission is to champion the redevelopment of the Riverfront above the falls (North and Northeast Minneapolis).  When I was a kid growing up in North Minneapolis, people warned us not to go down by the river.  They told us it was dirty and dangerous.  As a result, I never had a chance to experience the Mississippi River for the amazing local resource that it is.  I will ensure that this is not the case for subsequent generations of kids from North and Northeast Minneapolis.

When the locks closed in 2015 the barges could no longer navigate North of the falls.  As a result, the highest and best use of the riverfront above the falls has shifted dramatically away from heavy industrial.  We should utilize this redevelopment opportunity to recreate the Riverfront and complete a right of way that will span the entirety of the North and NE Minneapolis riverfronts so that all of our citizens have the opportunity to experience the river.

The Upper Harbor Terminal is a perfect example of this opportunity.  I want to ensure that this 48 acre redevelopment in North Minneapolis is creative, innovative and equitable.  I want to offer my experience in development to ensure that we will be proud of this investment.

Meg Forney
As an original member of the Above the Falls Citizen Advisory Committee over a decade ago, I am passionate about connecting underserved communities of North and Northeast Minneapolis to the only natural body of water in their community. Everyone should be able to have access to open spaces. The partnership with the Minneapolis Parks’ Foundation’s RiverFirst has leveraged private donated investment above the St. Anthony Falls. In my first term as Commissioner and as MPRB’s appointee to the Foundation Board, MPRB has secured three more miles adjacent to the shores of the Mississippi River for trails and parkland. The addition of connections into these communities is equally important. Broad collaborations are needed to fulfill key accessibility for North residents, such as Federal funding to create a land bridge over Interstate #94.

Russ Henry
I am a strong supporter of the RiverFirst vision and have been publicly and privately speaking on behalf of the RiverFirst plan for the last couple years. While we need to develop new parks along the river in North and NE Minneapolis, we need to do it in a way that will ensure that gentrification doesn’t occur. I’d like to see a community development organization lead the development of these parks along with the MPRB. I’d also like to see us invest in education and jobs in order to lift up the neighborhoods economically while we build new parks.

While we build new parks we should also work with Minneapolis Public Schools to simultaneously upgrade existing school facilities in N and NE. We can also create a co-campus out of the new parks so that school kids can learn about ecology and biology inside the new parks. I’d also like to see us simultaneously create job opportunities for Minneapolis residents by invigorating our youth-job-training programs specifically in the areas where new parks will be developed.

When we provide education, job, and community leadership opportunities along with a new park we’ll be providing a platform for people to uplift their own economic circumstances and gain access to health at the same time.

Devin Hogan
I am fully committed to executing the community-developed RiverFirst vision. Let’s keep securing and/or buying riverfront land as we can. With the Upper Harbor Terminal and Water Works projects underway, I would like the Park Board to prioritize the Great Northern Greenway River Link next. Connecting the North and Northeast bikeways will build public health and community wealth through accessibility.

I am gravely concerned we will under-leverage our generational investments in the riverfront. The private sector prioritizes cost efficiencies over tangible human benefits. Public Private Partnerships represent a corporate vision for our public land because we lack a public vision!

Parks contribute to higher property values. Listen to constituents when they say they are afraid these new parks will price them out of their homes. I have seen multiple incumbent commissioners act dismissively when approached about this. People stop showing up to engage with the Park Board because of this shameful behavior.

Properly leveraging transformational riverfront investments means maximizing the increase in tax base while equitably accounting for the effects it has on the surrounding city and region. Our assessment of accessibility must include affordable housing and effective multimodal transportation.

Details matter. The new Northeast riverfront bike trail dangerously dumps users mid-block onto Marshall Avenue with poor visibility for bikers, walkers, and drivers. This disconnection from the greater public realm is a missed opportunity to be good stewards of public money.

Jonathan Mark Honerbrink
I think that these communities (river front areas) have been benefiting very well. Now it is time to focus in on our inner city structures. Hennepin County is spending 100 million a year on its jail system. It is time to reverse where the money is going and get aggressive with developing our youth to be responsible and loving part of our society.

Bob Sullentrop
I’m not sure that I support making parks out of the industrial and commercial areas that abut the river in North and NE Minneapolis. These areas are providing good jobs and are contributing to the local economy.

LaTrisha Vetaw
I respect the work that’s been done thus far and I am impressed with the way the project has incorporated community members and organizations. As a Parks Commissioner, I want to make sure that before the plan is put into place, we continue to get feedback from the community to make sure the plan is meeting the needs of neighbors and users. I take a collaborative approach to policy making and this would be no different. I will collaborate with people and organizations to revitalize our riverfront and put amenities in place that attract people to the area. I will also work to ensure that we are creating riverfront park space in areas that have traditionally been industrial zones.

5. Role of innovative public/private partnerships in the Mpls park system

Due to ever-reducing public funding and a need for specialized expertise, there has been a trend over the past fifteen years of the Park Board leveraging public-private partnerships to better serve the public. These partnerships include in-park eateries like Sea Salt and Sand Castle, the Fred Wells Tennis Center, the Walker Sculpture Garden, Mintahoe Catering, and most recently, the redevelopment of Theodore Wirth Park through a partnership with the Loppet Foundation. With the redevelopment of the upper-riverfront, new park spaces through Parkland Dedication Ordinance requirements, and potential opportunities through the Urban Agriculture Activity Plan there are opportunities for more public-private partnerships.

What are your views on these public-private partnerships? What roles do public partnerships play in activating and funding existing and future park operations? How is public interest protected, and how is community engaged?

Charlie Casserly
I applaud our public/private partnerships. That current park board is doing a great job on those issues. The restaurants are doing much better than the previous park board-run facilities. The devil’s in the details on protections for our parks in partnerships. Community engagement is key. I will connect with the community on these issues through my regularly scheduled electronic communications.

Mike Derus
As avid park users, my family and I are frequent customers of the establishments listed above.  If done right, these partnerships can fruitful for both the businesses and park users.  However, we must underwrite these partnerships carefully and considerately to ensure that we create positive outcomes for the public.

Meg Forney
MPRB’s history with not-for-profit partnerships is vast and highly successful in leveraging resources for the greater community. One of the best examples is our over 100 year relationship with the Minneapolis Institute of Arts that sits on MPRB land and receives annual funding via the Legislature through the MPRB. Most recent is the success of Minneapolis Swims in securing funding from the Legislature for the Phillips pool, in an area void of swimming opportunities in a community lacking this life survival skill. The Loppet has taken on all fundraising and liability to construct a facility as well as surrounding infrastructure for year-round outdoor activities, that will be given when completed to the park system. These not-for-profit partnerships are essential to meet the growing and diverse needs of Minneapolis residents. It is imperative to me in my next term to build a park system for future generations by expanding public/not-for-profit partnerships to bring new funding in to maintain our parks. Thereby, limiting the burden on the taxpayers while ensuring open space for all residents. Continual community engagement is essential and beneficial to assure needs are met.

Russ Henry
Public funding of parks is not “ever-reducing” as the question states. MPRB budgets have been going steadily up for many years. In ’05 we had a MPRB budget of approximately 70 Million, for 2018 we have a projected budget of roughly 107million. The notion that we have “ever-reducing” public funding is utilized to justify privatization of parks, though it is a false premise.

I support public-private, and public-public partnerships that maintain public ownership of public spaces, equipment, and revenue and that uplift union jobs. Unfortunately the agreement that MPRB made with the Loppet constitute a give away to a politically connected organization. For 50 years the Loppet will be able to use MPRB equipment, land, and staff in a way that will financially benefit the Loppet while MPRB picks up the costs for most of the Loppet’s operating expenses. The Loppet also misrepresented their financial status to the MPRB regarding the amount of money they had garnered for construction of the nature center they’re building. MPRB commissioners then used tax payer dollars to prop up the Loppet by cosigning the bank loan for the Loppet. Public entities should be spending money to uplift low-income residents lives, this agreement spends money to support an organization run by wealthy people.

In the process of creating the Loppet agreement, representatives from park labor unions attempted to put forward an alternate plan for staffing Theodore Wirth Park that would have kept all the jobs at Theo Wirth unionized. Unfortunately the MPRB commissioners refused to even hear this plan from their main union.

The anti-union Loppet agreement needs to serve as a model of what not to do in regards to public-private partnerships.

Devin Hogan
The MPRB’s budget has increased by $40 million over the past fifteen years! The idea of “ever-reducing public funding” is a myth perpetuated under neoliberal ideology. The government’s job is to raise and spend public money on behalf of the public good. This is why the public elects the leadership.

Eateries are concessionaires, not PPP’s. They rent from the Park Board, pay a percentage of gross receipts, and make building improvements similar to any other commercial lease. We need more of these, especially at the Sculpture Garden and riverfront.

I grew up Nordic skiing and am glad the Loppet exists to ensure others can have similar experiences. The Park Board “exists to provide places and recreation opportunities for all people.” Outsourcing the Trailhead project to the Loppet is the opposite of “innovation” — it is literally abdicating our mission! This corporate mindset creates poor outcomes. Why does a new “public” building on national flyway in a regional park not have bird safe glass? Because “the market” decided the birds just aren’t worth it.

New density generates new users, and the Parkland Dedication Ordinance ensures subsequent capital investments are funded by developer profits instead of subsidies from other parts of the system. A+

Let’s work with Appetite for Change, Youth Farm, and MPS Farm to School to teach kids how to grow school lunch. Partner with Hennepin County Master Gardeners and Extension service to provide expertise and repurpose a portion of our own workforce to achieve scale.

Jonathan Mark Honerbrink
I do not believe that they have engaged the public well in the public/ private entities that they currently have. In fact I think it is time to engage the public in a much different fashion. There is a app they I would like promoted and developed to get the people in Minneapolis involved in its park system. Information and communication is key. We live in a technical world it is time that the park system starts to become part of that technology.

Bob Sullentrop
These sound like good undertakings and I would support them. I don’t know enough about them, however, to go into how the public interest is protected, etc. It would seem that that would need to be addressed when the agreements are made between the parties and are likely legal issues that I have no expertise in.

LaTrisha Vetaw
As someone who works for a nonprofit organization, I understand the important role that foundations and nonprofits play. These organizations bring additional opportunities and resources to our parks system. I believe we can all work together to come up with thoughtful collaborations that take the needs of the community into account.

6. Strategies to addresses climate sustainability and improving park ecosystem

With growing impacts of climate change, managing the park eco-system has become more and more important over the past several years. As a commissioner, how would you work with staff to establish environmental priorities for parkland. Do you have any specific climate change/environmental priorities that you would promote beyond those outlined in the Ecological System Plan?

Charlie Casserly
I would work to see more solar arrays powering our buildings, (again, likely with partnerships). More electric/hybrid vehicles as older vehicles age out.

Mike Derus
Climate change is real and needs to be addressed aggressively and immediately.  I am a strong proponent of utilizing renewable energy.  I am in favor of running the parks on renewable solar energy in order to demonstrate that it is feasible and practical for large systems of government.  In terms of renewable energy, we have the opportunity to be the change we want to see in the world.

Meg Forney
Our parks’ eco-system is a rich campus for leading in sustainable and renewal practices. I will continue to advocate for educating youth in environmental projects like our Green Team, for infrastructure investments such as solar and wind resiliency, for the State’s B3 (Building Benchmarks and Beyond) guidelines with priorities being heat island reduction, bird safe structures and improving our bio-diversity. Our Tree Preservation and Reforestation Fund should be renewed for continuing investments in trees, still our best weapon against global warming with carbon sequestration.

Russ Henry
I’ll work with staff through committee structures to identify and develop strategies for fighting climate change using the 6500 acres and 100 million dollar budget of the MPRB. We can use our parks to fight climate change by working with local universities to measure the amount of carbon currently present in park soils and develop strategies and techniques for growing ever more carbon in the soil over time. MPRB can and should switch 100% of it’s electric power purchasing to community solar gardens.

I have been calling for an elimination of the use of pesticides in our park system because they add to our negative impact on climate change. Pesticides are not only made from petroleum, they also cause massive damage to the ability of soil to sequester carbon.

Devin Hogan
The Park Board must get serious about its role in helping achieve the city’s Climate Action Goals. With 4,900 acres of land and water (15% of Minneapolis), actively working to build carbon-negative parks best plays to our strengths as a system. This means decreasing our carbon footprint while increasing our carbon sequestration handprint. This footprint/handprint approach is how I would guide staff to understand each of the Ecological System Plan topics.

The element missing from the Ecological System Plan is human ecology. Viewing human systems as separate from natural systems limits our understanding of problems and hides potential solutions. We must look for integrated solutions, such as taking on the municipal Organics Recycling program, which would provide the resources to build soil by composting at scale. We can likewise reduce carbon footprints by understanding how our parks can be part of creating healthy, walkable neighborhoods.

We can improve air quality by phasing out small engine uses (leaf blowers, mowers, ATVs) and replacing these with an electric fleet ultimately powered by electricity generated sustainably on-site. My Triangle Improvement Plan reimagines the ecology and maintenance of our city’s 39 triangles, circle, and oval away from gasoline-intensive turf towards pollinators, rain gardens, and community orchards.

Jonathan Mark Honerbrink
By 2025 Minneapolis will not be dependent on Excel energy. To the contrary we will become the energy leader and through that clean power solution I have come up with we will be a very powerful efficient city.

Bob Sullentrop
I don’t know anything about the Ecological System Plan, but would likely support it if the goals are reasonable and they actually accomplish something beneficial.

LaTrisha Vetaw
I believe we should do all that we can to reduce our environmental impact. I successfully advocated for a comprehensive tobacco-free parks policy for our park system. Tobacco litter is the number one kind of litter found in our parks and bodies of water. To further reduce litter, I would like to see more waste/recycling/compost bins in the parks with more community education about how to dispose of waste properly. I would also work to reduce pesticide use in the parks and make sure that we are doing all we can to make our buildings more energy efficient and reliant on renewable energy. I believe that people deserve clean air and beautiful green spaces to recreate in regardless of race, gender, age, or zip code.

7. RecQuest and programming

How well do you think the MPRB meets the needs and interests of our diverse and changing community regarding sports and other youth programming? If you think it’s out of balance, how would you propose to make it more equitable? What is the role of a park commissioner vs. staff in this regard?

Charlie Casserly
More youth baseball programming is needed. We need to keep baseball and tee-ball alive in the city. Fields, which used to be for kids, are now for adult teams. It’s a shame, and the bleeding needs to stop.

Mike Derus
The Minneapolis Parks and Rec Board has a unique relationship with the Arts in Minneapolis via the Walker and the Minneapolis Institute of arts.  I would like to see the MPRB partner with the arts community to increase our arts-based programming for Minneapolis kids.   We can be a part of fostering the next great artists of the 21st century.

Meg Forney
The MPRB system is based on when the majority of the recreation structures were built back in the ’60’s and ’70’s. Our population has changed dramatically since then. MPRB’s RecQuest is presently engaging the community to set a vision for the next generation of users. Pairing this vision with the Service Master Plans for each geographic area of the city, should align budget priorities each year. Our Street Reach project is an excellent example of adjusting staffing and effective programming for the growing needs of our youths’ development. Appropriate resource allocation is the role of the Board of Commissioners so staff can implement these aspirations.

Russ Henry
MPRB is failing at its goals to meet the needs of a changing and diverse community in regards to youth sports and programming. The amount of land and financial investment set aside for golf in our system which is predominately utilized by white men is vast compared to the amount of land and investment set aside for soccer and basketball. I’d like to see us perform an equitable land use survey to ensure that we start making equitable decisions in regards to the amount of land being used for each type of sport offered and the general demographics of people using the spaces.

Park commissioners are responsible for leading the discussion, engaging the public, and forming coalitions to grow equity and sustainability in everything we do as a park system. Staff are responsible for carrying out the policies made by commissioners and reporting on progress.

Devin Hogan
I have spoken to families and staff all across Minneapolis. Everyone loves their parks. Wealthier communities tell me the MPRB meets their needs ludicrously well. Poorer areas report mixed results. The Park Board has an obligation to address these historically inequitable allocations of public resources that have generated unjust social outcomes.

The recently signed Memorandum of Understanding with the Minneapolis Public Schools specifically calls for the joint development of a new rec league called the Minneapolis Youth Sports Association (MYSA). This kind of Public-Public Partnership best redresses privatized system imbalances such as non-profit Southwest sport councils sitting on tens of thousands of dollars while the Northside ones have all but disappeared.

An individual commissioner’s role in a major reorganization like MYSA is to build the relationships necessary to gain buy-in and build consensus across systems. The Park Board’s role is to set these priorities with the Superintendent, which will guide staff on determining the specifics like how we can best share facilities, scheduling, coaches, refs, equipment, etc. I am endorsed by five sitting school board members (a voting majority), because they believe I have the leadership skills necessary to strengthen mutual cooperation.

Neoliberal austerity is bad for our kids. Expand adaptive and culturally relevant sports and ecological education. Upgrade community kitchens to commercial standards to close the loop on the local food ecosystem and generate new revenue. Build more cohesive art programming throughout the system and partner with Minneapolis Public Schools Continuing Education to bring ELL classes to the parks.

Jonathan Mark Honerbrink
They are just starting to, but they are way behind other cities in Minnesota. Unfortunately there are very few women’s programs. Since there still isn’t a good base it is time to get aggressive with this and make sure for every boy in the park system there is a girl to match it. Women are not getting the same opportunities in the parks and that will become mandatory by 2019 if I am elected.

Bob Sullentrop
Again, I don’t know if the sports and youth programming is or isn’t out of balance and if it is I have no plans on how to fix it, but would certainly be willing to work with others to fix problems that need to be addressed.

LaTrisha Vetaw
I think the Park Board could better meet the needs of our diverse communities in the area of recreation. I would like to see more focus on recreation activities other than just sports such as art, music, dance, and science programming. I would like to see more partnerships with schools and local youth groups. As a Parks Commissioner, I would reach out to the community to hear more about needs and how the MPRB can meet those needs. I think staff and Commissioners can collaborate so those needs are met.

8. Vision – Top 3 priorities for next 4 years for district / citywide not being addressed

For the past five years the Trust for Public Land has determined that Minneapolis has the best park system in the nation. Do you agree with this assessment? By what criteria do you hope the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board is measured in the next four years and what steps do you see necessary to ensure that the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board scores highly within those areas? What are your top priorities for the next four years?

Charlie Casserly
My top three priorities for the next 4 years:

  • Save Hiawatha Golf Course as it is now, an 18-hole championship course. This will take a lot of work, but it will be worth it!
  • Save Lake Hiawatha Beach from being removed.
  • Repair and/or replace our crumbling tennis and basketball court infrastructure city-wide.

Mike Derus

  • Ensure equitable, innovative and creative redevelopment of the Mississippi riverfront above the falls
  • Preserve historic park assets, one example of which is the Hiawatha Golf Course but there are many more
  • Champion strong financial stewardship for the parks
  • Foster innovative environmental initiatives

Meg Forney
I am humbled by the Trust for Public Land’s top rating which is based on the legacy of over 134 years of an independent park board. Strong continuing stewardship is critical to maintain this rating. A criterion that I would hope we would also excel on is racial equity, with a measurement of percentage of minority staff in relation to our community’s adult population.

The work I’ve done these past three and a half years, has paved the way to take clear steps

1) To reduce barriers to park access for all

  • by expanding awareness of free and reduced lunches and programming for kids and seniors
  • providing childcare opportunities at Park events to encourage engagement
  • expanding hours at neighborhood parks to provide safe havens for kids

2) To bring families, kids, all residents closer to our parks

  • by continuing to secure parks, trails and play spaces along the banks of the Mississippi River for North and Northeast Minneapolis and expand connections into those communities
  • expanding the citizen engagement process to bring more voices to the table, letting more neighborhoods decide how to collaborate with their park

3) To build a park system for future generations by expanding public/not-for-profit partnerships to bring new funding in to maintain our parks to limit the burden on the taxpayers while ensuring open space for all residents.

And, lastly, to assure the public interest is always protected.

Russ Henry
I agree that according to the TfPL’s criteria Minneapolis has the best park system in America. I haven’t visited or lived in most other cities so I can’t fully comment on whether our system is “the best”. I can say that no matter how good our system is there is room for improvement.

When I talk with low-income residents and wealthy residents it becomes clear that the park system works very well for wealthier people and not very well for low income residents. North Minneapolis for instance has only 6 neighborhood parks while SW Minneapolis has 13. This disparity is even more glaring when one considers the lower than acceptable staffing levels at parks in N, NE, and SE Minneapolis.

It’s time to start measuring success in terms of residents health. Residents and neighborhoods of Minneapolis experiencing the most difficult health outcomes need to be the focus of our park system investment. This will put us on a track towards eliminating racial and economic disparities in our park system.

Devin Hogan
I agree that we have the best park system in the country as measured by the infrastructure criteria used by the Trust for Public Land. Our system is notably unique. Minneapolis developed around the parks, not the other way around. Being number 1 is great. The question, as always, is for whom.

This obsession with “scoring highly” is dehumanizing and obscures the role our park system plays in everyday lives. Let’s live up to our mission statement of a “strong emphasis on connecting people to the land and each other.” I hope the Park Board is measured by its ability to be humble and grow in respect and stature within the community. You will know it’s working when people stop showing up to public meetings to scream in your face.

The Devin for Parks top 3 Priorities:

  1. Expand the Memorandum of Understanding between the parks and schools to improve recreation, community education, and cooperation on facilities.
  2. Ensure the Above the Falls Master Plan is executed in a way that leverages the most public good from our investments, and positively impacts the surrounding neighborhoods.
  3. Complete a plan to transition to a carbon negative park system.

Jonathan Mark Honerbrink
I agree it is an amazing park system. I have been using it since the day I was born. With that said that is part of the blessings we have living in Minneapolis. This is a natural structure that has been laid out by God. The focus has to be on community center development. This is where the park board has struggled and this is where I intend to come in and redevelop our structures.

Bob Sullentrop
It certainly wouldn’t surprise me that we have the best park system in the nation. If that is the case then my priorities would be to continue to do the things that got us this ranking.

LaTrisha Vetaw
Minneapolis has a wonderful parks system. However, we need to do all that we can to make sure that all members of the Minneapolis community feel that our parks are number one. In the next four years, I hope we make strides in equity and that we are able to bridge the divide between those who feel disconnected from the parks and the Park Board. I hope we see positive change in those neighborhood parks that need the most tender loving care. I am hopeful we will make strides because of the thoughtful NPP2020 Agreement and accompanying equity-based matrix.

My top priorities over the next four years are to:

  1. Support healthy, welcoming, and safe parks for everyone. I’ve already worked to promote tobacco-free parks, and I will promote policies that reduce pesticides and keep our parks and air clean. Our parks are our city’s green spaces, and we need to keep them that way.
  2. Work to expand the community engagement process. I believe that the best decisions are made when the community is able to make their voice heard. I’ll promote new ways to engage the Minneapolis community and help bridge the gap between communities of color and the park board.
  3. Support youth recreation opportunities, like arts, music, and dance programs. Parks are places where kids come together to learn, grow, and form bonds with one another! I will invest in old and new programs that bring more Minneapolis children to the parks, improving their overall wellbeing.

9. Balancing Priorities

Our evolving and growing community has a series of needs to be addressed, including affordable housing, connected and affordable multi-modal transportation system, strong employment base, quality parks and public realm, equity and achievement gaps. What is the role of MPRB in these issues, how do the issues interrelate, and as Commissioner, how would you prioritize and balance them in your work?

Charlie Casserly
Inter-connectivity is happening! People commute on our bike paths. They work and have meetings in our parks. Our School Resource Officers are fantastic for our schools. Quality parks keep residents in Minneapolis, it’s the biggest reason people stay in Minneapolis. That’s why I’m excited for the NPP2020 plan. The more we keep people happy in our parks, the more residents will stay in Minneapolis.

Mike Derus
The MPRB can and should play a pivotal role in ensuring that our city can continue to grow and thrive via access to affordable housing, natural space, high quality transportation and a competent workforce.

Affordable Housing – As the Board considers redevelopment of the Riverfront and other park-adjacent redevelopments, we should actively encourage affordable housing part of the larger project.  The MPRB should offer programs through the nearby parks that benefit neighbors of all income levels.

Natural Space – Our parks are a little piece of the country right here in town.  Human beings need that connection to nature.  That is why I feel so strongly about preservation, improvement and even expansion of park space in Minneapolis.

Transportation – The state of transportation in the Twin Cities is in need of significant improvement.  I am in full support of efforts to expand multi-modal mass transit in Minneapolis.  Expanding mass transit benefits the environment, reduces congestion and plays a significant role in the overall quality of life.

Jobforce – The vibrancy of our local economy is dependant upon our ability to attract and retain talent.  Quality of life plays a critical role in that effort.  Our parks are a key component to that high quality of life.  Therefore, the Minneapolis Parks system plays a key role in the health of our local economy.    We must be mindful of that obligation in our decision making.

Meg Forney
Collaboration with multi-jurisdictions is essential for each of these issues and prioritizing and balancing is critical during the annual budget review. The strength of these partnerships will direct their outcomes. MPRB’s Memorandum of Understanding with the Minneapolis School Board has the potential to leverage resources for Equity and the Achievement Gaps. Collaborating with the City, Hennepin County and the Metropolitan Council is critical to establish Connected and Affordable Multi-Modal Transportation by developing safe connections between park trails and mass transit. Affordable Housing could be impacted through tax relief for homeowners within a defined radius of NPP2020 improvements. Legislative action would be needed. Increased funding through the Legislature for youth employment programs is needed for a Strong Employment Base. Quality Parks and the Public Realm will be enhanced with the incorporation of a racial equity matrix for regional parks and funding by the Metropolitan Council should reward this data-driven prioritizing. Continued cooperation with the City of Minneapolis to implement the use of Park Dedication Funds to grow connections and parks in newly developed areas will create Quality Parks and the Public Realm.

Russ Henry
I will utilize my time as a commissioner to uplift the priorities of the most economically and socially vulnerable people in Minneapolis. MPRB can and must play a critical roll in addressing the needs of the community. In the realm of affordable housing MPRB can work with developers to create truly low-income housing near the RiverFirst developments. MPRB can and must work with the Met Council and State of MN to find appropriate pathways for transit. MPRB can and must further develop job training, education, and career placement opportunities for Minneapolis residents. And MPRB has a great responsibility to maintain and grow a vibrant park system.

As commissioner I’ll work with residents and organizations representing the lowest income residents in Minneapolis to find ways for our park system to work with communities and other government entities to grow a more equitable, sustainable city.

Devin Hogan
The MPRB must understand that affordable housing, transportation, and employment are regional issues that require cooperation across governments. When the Park Board spends general fund money to fight the light rail on behalf of wealthy white homeowners, it is being a bad regional partner in addition to financially undermining its own programming.

Unless the Park Board advocates for the City of Minneapolis to address our affordable housing crisis, development of river amenities may price out families that have lived in North Minneapolis for years. We can grow the city without displacement if we focus the upcoming growth in a dense fashion that supports affordability and multimodal transportation, because housing costs and transportation costs are linked. We must advocate for and build environments that make alternative transportation viable. “Green space” for its own sake is bad for the Earth if it prevents walkability and bikeability in an urban setting. Urbanism is environmentalism.

Urban development creates more Parkland Dedication Ordinance fees and grows the property tax base while lowering the tax pressure on individual homeowners. More Minneapolis residents also means more political representation at the state legislature.

Jonathan Mark Honerbrink
I will create over 5000 jobs with in 7 years through the park board. I am willing to sit down with the league of women voters to discuss how this is possible with no increased taxes at their request.

Bob Sullentrop
I think that the MPRB should concentrate on the parks and let others worry about issues that the Park Board has no jurisdiction over.

LaTrisha Vetaw
I will balance priorities by listening to community members, doing my homework, talking to community leaders and organizations, and gathering input from MPRB staff. I am coalition builder and I believe that we need to make decisions and set priorities by working together and listening to those who are most impacted.