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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

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!!!

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