1. Why are you running to be a Commissioner on the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board?
When I saw that Bob Fine would not be running for reelection in District 6, I became very concerned about the potential direction that the Park & Recreation Board could go. Bob has always been a huge supporter of recreational programming through our local park community centers and I wanted to make sure that District 6 has a representative who both understands our Park system needs, as well as has been heavily involved in our city's recreational programming and fully understands their value to our community - both short and long term. For ten years I have coached hockey and soccer in Southwest Minneapolis and through this I have gained an appreciation for Park staff, Park Police, and those that operate our parks and programs out of 'West River Road'. I want to help them continue their great programming and grow it into the future.
With that said, I am an avid fan of our Park System and want to see it maintained and continually developed through an independent Park & Recreation Board. The Park & Recreation Board will be heading into very difficult financial times over the next several years due to budget cuts and lower tax revenues. I have both the business experience and entrepreneurial spirit that will be necessary to help guide our parks program forward. Readers can get more information regarding my positions on issues at http://ibelieveinminneapolis.com/ and also read my blog at http://stevejechaforparks.blogspot.com/.
2. How would you describe the “job” of a park commissioner? What are the most important roles and responsibilities?
Park Commissioners are the stewards of our Park System and our neighborhood recreational centers. Their 'job' is to continuously improve our current system while making sure that the Park System is strong today and even stronger for future generations. This includes keeping lakes clean, preventing invasive species in our waters and urban forests (e.g. zebra mussles and emerald ash borers), to providing recreational opportunities (sports, arts, etc.) at our local community centers that will allow both kids and adults to enjoy our parks.
The roles and responsibilities will vary. Short term, managing the Park Board's finances and keeping all of our recreational centers open is of highest importance. This may shift as priorities of the city shift.
3. Are you running on a “reform” platform, or not? Please explain, be specific.
No. We have the best urban park system in the country! More focus needs to be spent on how we continuously improve this park system to provide better and better experiences for our citizens and park staff; rather than "reform". While we all can agree that the park system moves slowly, it is moving in the right direction and that is what matters. 96% of our community rate the overall appearance and maintenance of our parks favorably. That same number rate the quality of our parks favorably. When the management and staff are putting up these kind of numbers, reform isn't necessary. However, requiring continuous improvement and forward thinking is required.
4. Do you support or oppose the proposed referendum for Park Board independence? Please explain.
Absolutely support independence. As stated above, the Park & Recreation system is working for this community the way it is set up. Quality of services to the community can only go down from where it is now...and it most likely would. Let's not break something that not only isn't broke, but is doing a positive job for our citizens.
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 run many companies, from a printing company, to a software company, to a 120 employee $13 million revenue company. In addition, I have been the President of the Southwest Minneapolis hockey association - a non-profit - that has 14 employees and $3,000,000 in revenues. I have guided the SWHA from near bankruptcy and low participant numbers to a surplus and huge recruiting successes. In light of the difficult financial times and difficult decisions that must be made by the Park & Recreation Board, these skills position me as one of the best candidates to help guide the Park Board's short and long term futures. I am an entrepreneur, and if ever there was a time where entreprenuers are needed on the Park Board, this is it.
6. What is your view on how the MPRB should approach public/private partnerships, “enterprise” or income-generating projects?
If, 1) it saves staff jobs and keeps recreational centers open by providing revenue to the Park Board, and 2) can be done in a way that has minimal negative impact to the park and surrounding neighbors; I am 100% for this approach. Sea Salt and The Tin Fish have been successful - both in providing a better park experience for users and in generating desperately needed income. The Park Board should also look at sponsorships, grants, etc. that are designed by the Park Board and done in a consistent and discreet manner so as to not turn our parks into one big advertisement - but also mindful that revenue saves staff jobs and keeps our community centers open - as well as having a full staff of Park Police to prevent crimes at our parks.
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 am not familiar with the situations. However, these same things - "acrimonious relationships" - can be said about almost any government body, corporation, non-profit. People have different opinions on what is right and what is wrong when it comes to making decisions. In the end, common sense usually wins out and that is what appears to be taking place with the Park 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?
Again, I am not familiar with this general perception. I will promote positive relationships between the City, County, school boards, Met council, and anyone else.