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Friday, July 24, 2009

Shocking scandal – Park Reform/Park Watch Candidate Found to Have Violated MN Fair Campaign Practices Act

We recently promised to report something so shocking, so scandalous, it simply defies the imagination – stretches the bounds of believability!

When we learned of it, after reviving from a group faint that an Openness/Accountability Park Reform/Park Watch candidate would “prepare and disseminate campaign material that contained false statements” and that the “violations were multiple and were committed knowingly or with reckless disregard of the truth” we had to go back and confirm the facts.

We found them here:

Jim Bernstein was recruited by Michael Guest’s Minneapolis Citizens for Park Board Reform to run against incumbent Park Commissioner Bob Fine. Mr. Bernstein was endorsed by Park Reform, as well as Park Watch. They armed him with their imaginative claims, “Bernstein relied upon widely distributed literature published by Minneapolis Citizens for Park Board Reform.”

He produced campaign flyers and placed newspaper ads that contained some very inventive allegations against Commissioner Fine:
“(1) More funding for speedy removal of trees infected by Dutch Elm disease and replant new trees? – Doesn’t Support;
(2) Provide superintendent with a $500,000 slush fund? – Yes!; and
(3) Fund and finish Lake of the Isles restoration? – Not a priority. “

Commissioner Fine knew these statements were false, and in the interest of simple fairness, brought this to the attention of the Office of Administrative Hearings. Mr. Bernstein came represented by political heavyweights Alan W. Weinblatt, Jyotsna Asha Sharma, Luke M. Kuhl, Weinblatt & Gaylord PLC.

Mr. Fine represented himself, armed only with the truth.

Mr. Fine provided documentation to prove the Mr. Bernstein’s claims were false. Mr. Bernstein provided witnesses, like Michael Guest.

The Openness/Accountability Reform/Watch candidate argued that his statements, made during an election campaign, criticizing his opponent, an elected public official, were completely protected by the First Amendment. As we know, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution provides in relevant part that, “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press . . . .”

Bernstein is correct in his assertion that political speech receives even greater protection under the First Amendment. In fact, constitutional protections for speech and press were fashioned to assure unfettered interchange of ideas for bringing about political and social changes desired by the people!

“[I]n order to protect a vigorous marketplace in political ideas and contentions, we ought to accept the proposition that those who place themselves in a political arena must accept a degree of derogation that others need not.” Ollman v. Evans, 750 F.2d 970, 1002 (D.C. Cir. 1984) (Bork, J., concurring).

Political speech is protected under the First Amendment, but this protection is not absolute. It does not confer an absolute right to speak or publish, without responsibility, whatever one may choose, or an unrestricted and unbridled license that gives immunity for every possible use of language. In other words, you can’t just, well, you can just spout crapola.

Openness/Accountability/Reform/Watch candidate Bernstein argued that the First Amendment protected his “statements of opinion.” This protection exists because SUPPOSEDLY THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A FALSE OPINION. He cited Kennedy v. Voss, a Minnesota Supreme Court decision 304 N.W.2d 299, 300 (Minn.1981) (discussing predecessor statute, Minn. Stat. § 210A.04 (1980)) in which a candidate used a fact – an incumbent’s “no” vote on a county budget – to infer that the incumbent did not support any of the individual items in the budget. The incumbent supported various items in the budget, however, voted “no” because the budget included an appropriation with which the incumbent disagreed.

The Minnesota Supreme Court held that the inferences, even though EXTREME AND ILLOGICAL, did not come within the purview of the statute. It’s a pretty low standard.

How low is it? So low it has to look up to see a snake’s belly.

Well… Commissioner Fine never engaged in a blanket vote against any of the programs commented on in Bernstein’s statements. Instead, Park Board records, which Bernstein admittedly reviewed, indicated Commissioner Fine’s SUPPORT of Dutch Elm disease funding and the Lake-of-the-Isles project. Park Board records also indicated the FALSITY of Bernstein’s statement regarding the “slush fund.”

“(1) More funding for speedy removal of trees infected by Dutch Elm disease and replant new trees? – Doesn’t Support”
The Office of Administrative Hearings found this statement to be a false fact, and the Minnesota Court of Appeals agreed. They ruled that Bernstein knew his statement was false or made the statement with reckless disregard of whether or not it was false. False, reckless disregard, snake’s belly.

“(2) Provide superintendent with a $500,000 slush fund? – Yes!”
The Office of Administrative Hearings found this statement to be a false factual assertion, and the Minnesota Court of Appeals agreed. They ruled that Bernstein knew his statement was false or made the statement with reckless disregard of whether or not it was false. False, reckless disregard, snake’s belly.

“(3) Fund and finish Lake of the Isles restoration? – Not a priority. “
The Office of Administrative Hearings found this to be a false statement, and the Minnesota Court of Appeals agreed. They ruled that Bernstein acted with reckless disregard by publishing and disseminating this statement. False, reckless disregard, snake’s belly.

To review, Park Watch makes things up, Park Reform recruits candidates to spout their crapola, Park Reform and Park Watch endorse the candidates, then the candidates proceed to spout the crapola.

Heckava-reform-movement. A “reform” movement built on lies looks like a lot like a low-pile-of-crapola.

Our readers may be interested to learn that Mr. Bernstein is the Chair of the Minneapolis Charter Commission, and that he voted to put a referendum on the ballot to eliminate the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

In the interest of “openness and accountability,” the standard by which Minneapolis Citizens for Park Board Reform recruited this candidate, calling him “an impressive fellow” and by which they and Park Watch endorsed this candidate, we call on Park Watch to report this story, albeit four years after the fact.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

If It Ain’t Broke, For the Love of Parks, Don’t Break It!

Reform transitive verb \ri-ˈfȯrm\
1. to induce or cause to abandon evil ways
2. to put an end to (an evil) by enforcing or introducing a better method or course of action

Park Watch asserts the Park Board needs ”reform.” Their reasons include charges of incompetence, like not attending to Dutch Elm Diseased trees. Oops! Turns out that’s not true. Charges of non-transparency, like not providing meeting minutes. Uh oh! Another fiction. Charges of corruption, like a half-million dollar superintendent’s slush fund. Doh! A totally bogus claim.

Park Board needs reform. Whoops! Guess not. What Ignoratio Elenchi is this?

Red Herring noun, idiom \ˈred ˈhe-riŋ\
1. a dried and smoked herring having a reddish color
2. a device which intends to divert the audience from the truth or an item of significance.

So what is this truth from which Park Watch seeks to divert our attention?

Decision Resources, Inc. conducted a poll of some 600 random Minneapolis residents – a large and statistical sample – asking their perceptions of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

97% of respondents say the parks “meet the needs of their household.” 99% of respondents say the park system is a “unique and valuable asset.” 99% of respondents say the parks “play an important role, benefit the public good and are low cost.” Not bad, maybe it should have been 100%?

The most interesting question asked respondents to rate the value they are getting for their tax dollars.
9% said excellent value, 73% said good, 5% said fair, and 13% were unsure.

Only 1% rated the value for tax dollars as poor.

Do we know the identities of the six respondents that comprise that 1%? Perhaps they are ParkWatch candidates Liz Wielinski, Michael Guest, Jason Stone, Annie Young, Scott Vreeland and John Erwin.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board continually improves the services it provides, stewardship of the parks, and its financial performance. That is as it should be. Every organization can be improved, and every organization should have a process for continual improvement.

So why the clamor for “reform” based on false assertions? Here’s one idea…

Trojan Horse noun, idiom \ˈtrōjən hôrs\
1. a large hollow wooden figure of a horse (filled with Greek soldiers) left by the Greeks outside Troy during the Trojan War
2. a subversive group that supports the enemy and engages in espionage or sabotage; an enemy in your midst

Thank You!

This Blog has existed for about one week now and so far 450 of you have stopped by and visited us.

Democracy is alive and well. We invite your comments even from those of you who disagree with what we have or will write about.

In the coming weeks we will be asking all 25 candidates running for the Park Board to share their thoughts with us and address some questions that we think need to be answered.

You may notice I have listed an e-mail address to contact us. Please feel free to send suggestions for questions that you want the candidates to answer on the record.

Thanks again!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Park Watch, Minneapolis Citizens for Park Board Reform and Friends of the Riverfront - A Tiresome Triumvirate or a Pernicious Posse?

The dedicated detectives that investigate this Mystery Mob, members of an elite squad known as Park Watch Watch, are working hard to discover people and motives behind Park Watch. In the course of our investigation, we uncovered Park Watch’s Kissing Cousins, Minneapolis Citizens for Park Board Reform and Friends of the Riverfront.

Minneapolis Citizens for Park Board Reform was a PAC that raised money and recruited candidates to run against the Commissioners dubbed the Gang of 5 by Park Watch. It was formed after Park Watch, and was very active in the 2005 election. Many of the same people were involved in both organizations, and many of the claims espoused by this organization were identical to those of Park Watch. They endorsed the same slate of candidates. Their mission was “to elect reform-minded Commissioners to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board; commissioners who will support Environmental Stewardship, Financial Accountability, and a more Open and Transparent system.”

Don’t bother clicking to their website as the site no longer exists. A Google search of the name does turn up some very interesting things, such as a court document, as you will find in the next shocking installment of this story.

According to internet records, Friends of the Riverfront is a “a nonprofit organization and group of concerned citizens and park users, dedicated to conserving, protecting, and enhancing the resources of the Central Mississippi Riverfront Regional Park in Minneapolis.” Again, the same cast of characters is active in all of these organizations, and they endorsed the same slate of candidates in 2005.

This organization seems dedicated to lawsuits more than anything, as a simple Google search will reveal. Again, don’t bother clicking to their website as the site no longer exists.

They are, however, still taking donations at Make a contribution to help preserve and protect Nicollet Island! Your contribution will be given to Friends of the Riverfront, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and enhancing the environment of the Central Mississippi Riverfront Regional Park in Minneapolis. Please note that contributions to this 501(c)(4)* nonprofit organization are not tax deductible.

*501(c)4’s can engage in political campaign activity, so long as this is consistent with the organization’s purpose and is not the organization’s primary activity.Coming up…
Something so shocking, so scandalous, it simply defies the imagination – stretches the bounds of believability!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Gurban's First Year and the Birth of Park Watch

It was 2004, and the hiring of Jon Gurban spawned Park Watch, or so the story goes. Minneapolis politics was known for being a contact sport, but this small and dedicated group was going to take this game to an all-time low.


Below is a sample of the Destructo-spin that this group uses to spread its message:

“Last year (2003), the MPRB hired a search firm to find prospects to fill the position of superintendent. We recently obtained a copy of the text in the document the search firm sent to prospective applicants. The criteria all seem reasonable. Jon Gurban (current interim superintendent and appointed at the last moment by the Gang of Five in what clearly was a backroom deal) did not apply for the job, or follow any of the application requirements outlined here. Thus we have no way of knowing if he is at all qualified. The commissioners never received any further information beyond a brief, inaccurate resume handed out just minutes prior to the vote. What are they trying to hide? That Gurban is completely unqualified?”

Out of Options

Of course this leaves a few critical elements out of the story, like why the Grown-up 5 had to hire an “interim” superintendent in the first place. It was because some of the Defiant 4 had treated the final candidates so shabbily, so offensively, that they dropped out of the search. Mr. Gurban was well-known to the Commissioners as Executive Director of the Minnesota Recreation and Park Association. He was recommended to the board by the outgoing superintendent after she flat-out refused an offer to stay until another search process was completed. So on December 17, 2003, at the last meeting of the year, with no superintendent at the helm, a majority of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Commissioners voted to offer Mr. Gurban a one-year temporary position to help them through this transition.

Reinventing Reality

But rather than see things as they were, a few individuals decided to form an alliance with the most disruptive members of the board and commence an inquisition.

They cried corruption. They howled about a back room deal. They questioned Gurban’s resume. They said he was inexperienced and “completely unqualified.” They said he would sell off park land to greedy developers. They even disparaged his grammar. Of course all of these serious allegations turned out to be false. To Park Watch’s great shame they never printed a retraction.

As a condition of his employment, the Board required that Gurban meet the same requirements and take the same tests the other applicants had taken. It turned out that Gurban exceeded the requirements, and his test results surpassed the other applicants. Park Watch has this information, but again to their shame, it has never been posted on their website.

Just the Facts, Ma’am

Here are some other things you won’t find on the ParkWatch blog. In 2004 (Gurban’s first/interim year) the MPRB did accomplish a thing or two:

1. Rehabilitated the athletic fields at Armatage Park and Marshall Terrace.
2. Rehabilitated 8 miles of pathways around Cedar Lake and Lake Nokomis.
3. Restored the Lake Harriet Bandshell.
4. Introduced skate parks.
5. Acquired the Edward C. Solomon Park, adding 40 acres of new parkland.
6. Implemented a cutting edge engineering strategy called “surcharging” which restores park land prone to flooding.
7. Developed a new geographically-based organizational structure to adapt more quickly to changing metro demographics.
8. Implemented an online park reservation system.

So under Gurban’s leadership the MPRB rehabilitated a few parks and trails, so they added a little park land, so they reorganized staff to be more efficient, so they automated a reservation system, so they introduced skate parks. Park Watch still says he’s not qualified. What else did he do as Interim Superintendent?

9. Removed 5300 trees due to Dutch elm disease (the 3rd highest number since the 1970’s).
10. Increased awareness of cultural diversity, particularly within the Latino community.
11. Established the Minneapolis Parks Foundation.
12. Installed the system’s first solar array computer and electrical converter.
13. Started broadcasting all board meetings live on cable access television.

That’s in addition to running the day-to-day operations that require 600 full time and 1000 part time employees. The system includes 7 golf courses, 183 tennis courts, 8 historic sites, 3 pools and a heck of a lot more, like coordinating some 5000 volunteers.

Now, that’s a pretty full plate for a guy with at least 4 board members and Park Watch dedicated to opposing his every move. And indeed 2004 seemed to be Gurban’s least productive year compared to what he has accomplished since then.

Park Watch Brooks No Dissent

The next year, to Park Watch’s great consternation, Mr. Gurban was offered a contract and the label of “interim” was removed from his title. Up from 5:4, the vote was now 6:3 in favor. Commissioner John Erwin joined the Grown-up 5 in deciding Jon Gurban was the best candidate for the times and challenges ahead. Park Watch had this to say, “Commissioner John Erwin is now persona non grata after abandoning and alienating the constituents who both elected and supported him, as well as abandoning the now minority three commissioners. Erwin instead voted with the steam-rolling, dirty-dealing majority five. Erwin will never be part of the inner circle formed by majority five commissioners: "jocks" Walt Dziedzic, Bob Fine and Jon Olson, and empty-headed "cheerleaders" Marie Hauser and Carol Kummer.”

Perhaps there is just no pleasing Annie Young, Vivian Mason or Rochelle Berry Graves.

Psycho-activists or Rovian-politicos?

This leaves Park Watch Watch wondering about the motives of Park Watch. In a recent post, we observed that Park Watch members exhibited symptoms of “psycho-activism.” This means they started out as well-intentioned, and sadly lost their way. Not guilty by reason of mental defect. But perhaps they do know right from wrong, and are acting with malice aforethought. In this case, it smells more and more like “Rovian-politics.” Did these Park Watch players have a hand in thwarting the superintendent search or did they just observe it? Who is behind the curtain? What is their end game?

Next up:
If it ain’t broke, don’t break it.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Another Great post from Two Putt

I thought I would post this. For those of you who are looking for a good blog to read it’s at:
I read it every day.

Thank you Tommy! TPL

What I Said Last Night (+)
by: TwoPuttTommy
Thu Jul 16, 2009 at 11:51:39 AM CDT

Two weeks ago I wrote a post entitled "Protecting A Parking Lot" where Park Watch's June 17th testimony to the Park Board was duly noted and dismissed as the junk it was. I was going to fisk that junk; but other things got in the way. So, I thought I'd attend last night's Minneapolis Park Board meeting, and do some fisking there. Here's what I wanted to say; I gave an abridged version as I thought I'd have three minutes but was only given two:

Mr. President, Ms. Vice President, Commissioners: My name is Tommy Johnson. Most of you know me as TwoPutt Tommy. I am a blogger at MNProgressiveProject. I am here to speak about blogging, ParkWatch, and a little bit about Crown Hydro.
MNProgressiveProject is a group of bloggers that speak for no one but ourselves. We cover issues all over the state of Minnesota. Like all reputable blogs, we try to follow something loosely called the Blogger's Code of Ethics. There are two basic elements we go by.

First, be honest in gathering, reporting and interpreting information. This means checking facts. One of the tenets of this guideline is to distinguish between advocacy, commentary and factual information. Even advocacy writing and commentary should not misrepresent fact or context.

Second, be accountable. We admit our mistakes, and correct our posts.
In the course of my blogging, I covered the issue of Crown Hydro, and became aware of ParkWatch. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is covered extensively by the blog ParkWatch, and they are also activists against certain projects, such as Crown Hydro. On June 17th a blogger from ParkWatch addressed the Park Board and posted said comments on their blog.

I made a brief blog post about this on Friday, June 19th - I brefly touched on Park Watch's comments, but didn't get into specifics. Tonight, I'd like to.
On June 17th, a Park Watch member, Arlene Fried, made the following comments:
She said, and I quote: "We know that the public will lose control over St. Anthony Falls to a private developer and the FERC. No one can predict water flows over the next 50 to 100 years, and an EAW will not enlighten you on this topic. The FERC will have the authority to let the Falls run dry in order to produce energy."

This is completely at odds with what the FERC License says. The FERC license Article 309 requires Crown Hydro to work with the other water users on a flow plan. (1) They did this. (2) There are 4 water users at this elevation, the City, the Army Corps and Xcel Energy. Crown Hydro has last use. First to turn off, last to turn on, and will never run at times of low flow. Article 404 (3) requires them to have a plan to implement this. And finally, the lease terms negotiated by the Park Board indicate the Park Board has control of water diversion when flows are at 1000 cfs or below. (4) This lease term becomes part of the FERC license, in essence, fully enforceable federal law. Some people might call what Ms. Fried said untrue; I'll simply say the license contradicts what she said.

The second statement she made, and I quote: "We know that a FERC hydropower license will preempt local control of historic preservation issues."
Again, completely at odds with everything I've read. This is local park land, on a federal waterway, in part of a national park. The Minneapolis Heritage Preservation office will work with the State Historic Preservation Office and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to create a Programmatic Agreement that addresses historic preservation issues. Some people might call what Ms. Fried said untrue; I'll simply say the record contradicts what she said.

I hope the ParkWatch blog accepts these fact corrections and edits their blog accordingly.
1 - pages 10 and 17 of FERC License, 19 March 1999
2 - System-Wide Low-Flow Management Plan, Mississippi River above St. Paul, revised 11 March 2004
3 - pages 10 and 20 of FERC License, 19 March 1999
4 - Crown Hydro Proposed Lease Term Sheet

Quite frankly, the Park Watch people don't source their work and for the most part their work is junk. When people have to make stuff up to make a point, their point isn't worth making.

Recently, I mocked, ridiculed, and scorned the ParkWatch folk. Shortly thereafter, I recived an e-mail, notifying me of a new blog, Minneapolis Park Watch Watch, which is now mocking, ridiculing, and scorning the Park Watch folk.

FOR THE RECORD: I was not involved in forming the Minneapolis Park Watch Watch blog, I have not been invoved, nor am I now involved. But, I'd like to think that my mocking, ridiculing, and scorning of the Park Watch folk was part of the inspiration to the people that did. And who knows? Down the road, I might just make a post or three or more over there...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Minneapolis Park Board - A "bunker mentality"?

A hat tip to Two Putt Tommy at for exposing one of the main symptoms of Civic PsychoActivism, namely, costing taxpayers incalculable dollars and draining human and other resources while deluding oneself into thinking these actions somehow serve a public purpose.

The Minneapolis Park Board - A "bunker mentality"? (Part 1)

Wed March 25, 2009 at 12:20:29 PM CDT

Avista Capital Partner's Strib has a story about the Mpls Park Board; apparently, Park Board President Tom Nordyke doesn't think it's an appropriate use of Park Board property for the City's Charter Commission to hold meetings at said property when the topic to be discussed is the possible elimination the Park Board.

Seems like these days, a lot of people are taking shots at the Park Board. In the course of investigating the Crown Hydro Project, one group that seems to especially get in the Park Board's face*, is a group called, who's whole schtick seems to be "the Park and Rec Board is filled with incompetents, liars, and thieves and you can't trust them or believe anything they say - EXCEPT when it comes to Crown Hydro."

And I couldn't believe the amount of paperwork demands. I asked for information regarding data requests from the Park Board; I simply couldn't believe what wanted. Let's look!

Here's the Data Request I asked for, in its entirety: I would like to review the "Data Requests" filed with the MPRB by groups such as, etc.

What I promptly got back on March 11th was a SpreadSheet, with 236 lines dating back to March 1st, 2006 - and the vast majority (all but 48, by my count) coming from folk like Arlene Fried, Edna Brazaitis, and Liz Wielinski.

That's 188 Data Request submissions, in 36 months - or, roughly, a little over 5 per month. However, if you figure in 10 days per month for weekends and holidays, etc - that's really more like one Data Request every four work days. One every four days, over the course of 3 years.

And let's look at a couple of what they've asked for, such as a Data Request by Liz Wielinski, on 11/1/2006 and renewed 7/20/07:
Any emails, telephone messages, or correspondence between DeLaSalle Brother Michael Collins, Barbara Johnson or anyone representing DeLaSalle or the Archdioceses of Mpls & St. Paul and anyone employed by (including counsel) the MPRB or it's commissioners prior to 10/25/06 going as far back as January 1, 2004.

Here's one Ms. Wielinski filed on March 6th, 2007:
Northeast Ice Arena - All hours scheduled / amounts paid per hour / all entities scheduled / during the 2006-2007 hockey season (Sept. 1, 2006 - April 30, 2007). I would prefer this information in the electronic format it is most likely in as you take reservations by internet. I would also like all data on expenses incurred since the arena became MPRB property including legal expenses for the transfer, utilities, repairs, staff time dedicated to this arena and the cost of any signage & advertising (fees to illegible word)

Here's one Ms. Wielinski filed on 8/26/2008:
I would like any written or electronic data regarding any possible offers of purchase or land trades, sales, or shared use of the property known as Bluff Street Park in the Cedar Riverside area. This is NOT limited to actual purchase agreements but any casual reference as well as active inquiry. This is to cover a period from January of 2003 forward.

Here's one, by Edna Brazaitis, on 10/5/2007 and renewed 3/26/08:
All data, including but not limited to: correspondence, drafts, e-mails, spreadsheets, calendars, forms, presentations, phone messages, relating in any way to state financing/bond requirements relating to the DeLaSalle project, including all inner office communications within the MPRB, communications with and between the MPRB Commissioners, and all communications of any kind with, by or between staff of the Commissioner of Finance, the Department of Administration, the Met Council, the City of Minneapolis, DeLaSalle High School, and their attorneys, including the Attorney General.
"calendars"? e-mails? phone messages? "any casual reference" - going back FIVE YEARS??!? Are you (cheney)in' kidding me??!?

Gee - no wonder the Park Board had to hire someone to answer this "watchdog" group's fishing expeditions, no, "information requests".

Now, here's what really gets me: These folk love to ask questions of others, and appear to get highly indignant when Park Board people don't jump at the snap of their fingers, but they won't answer questions posed by this friendly, progressive blogger - even though one member is running for a Park Board Seat -
Liz Wielinski.

From Ms. Wielinki's site: Increase citizen review and participation. I am not only eager to listen, I want a process in place so that residents are confident they will be heard. If you have questions, feel free to phone or send an e-mail.

Please note - NOWHERE does she say she'll answer questions. And if my experience is indicative, she won't.

Clearly, there are people that think the Park Board has problems; clearly, is one of them. While they have every right to ask for every scrap of paper someone made a note on, it's highly ironic that a group that allegedly wants the Park Board to function more effectively is getting in the way of them doing just that.

Keep that in mind, if you see the name of Liz Wielinski on a ballot.


Oh, and that asterisk, above? You know, from this? " group that seems to especially get in the Park Board's face*..." Apparently, the Park Board Commissioners recently had a "retreat." And again, while certainly has a right, under law, to attend, that doesn't give them license to be disruptive and/or behave like jerks.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The hiring of Jon Gurban

It was December of 2003 and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board was about to have a big problem.

After an extensive search to replace the outgoing Parks Superintendent their focus had narrowed down to two candidates; each had excellent credentials.

At that point some of the Ineffectual Four Commissioners decided that the final interview was a unique opportunity to do some political grandstanding and show the potential new superintendent who was boss. The last thing some of these board members wanted was a superintendent that was independent and didn’t kowtow to their whims. The grilling these candidates received was brutal. It involved questions that had little to do with their professional qualifications. They ventured into personal and political; one candidate was asked about his “living arrangements.”

It came as no surprise that both the final candidates withdrew their names from consideration. The allure of running the largest and oldest park system in the state and the pay that went with the job couldn’t compensate for the aggravation that was sure to come from working with these harpies.

So the board had a problem. The holidays were approaching; the current superintendent was leaving at the end of the year. After spending a year and more than $40,000 on the search for a replacement, they had no candidates.

Five of the brighter members of the board (dubbed the “Gang of 5” by park plague ParkWatch) came to the conclusion that the Park Board needed an interim superintendent. One name came up again and again - Jon Gurban. At that time Mr. Gurban was Executive Director of the Minnesota Recreation and Park Association. He had an excellent reputation for dealing with the public, members, staff and the board of directors. He was a “hometown boy” with a pretty good understanding of the challenges the new Park Superintendent would be facing.

The Grown-up 5 approached Mr. Gurban to discuss a temporary 1-year appointment while they conducted yet another national search.

Mr. Gurban would have to make some sacrifices to take this temporary position. MNPRA would not allow a one-year leave of absence or sabbatical. The MPRB could not guarantee employment for more than a year. It was quite a career risk knowing he would find himself searching for a job in a year, and that dealing with the dysfunctional board could at some point tarnish his reputation.

But the lure of an exciting new opportunity and a chance to right a ship that had veered off course proved to be too much for Mr. Gurban. Minneapolis was his home and the city he grew up in and he had always had a love for its parks. Some of his fondest childhood memories were linked to those parks and now he had the chance to repay the city he loved. He took the job, deciding that the opportunity to make a positive difference as Park Superintendent was more important than his own job security. .

Next up: Gurban’s tenure.

The ParkWatch characters

Who is ParkWatch? Super heroes? Arch Villains? Or just Burrs in our Saddles?

Did you ever see that movie Mystery Men? It came out in 1999 and starred Ben Stiller, Janeane Garofalo, Hank Azaria, William H. Macy, Paul Reubens and Gregg Kinnear. They were a group of B-List super heroes – The Bowler, The Spleen, The Shoveler, The Blue Raja – struggling to make their lives relevant.

My favorite character is Mr. Furious, played by Ben Stiller, whose super power comes from his Boundless Rage.

The founders of ParkWatch state the catalyst of their Boundless Rage was the hiring of Jon Gurban, aka The Admiral of Evil.

The ParkWatch characters:

Margaret Hamilton
Persistent Bursitis
Fitz Grumbledore
Dizz Nitpick-ski
Mini Me

Barney Rubble

We here at ParkWatchWatch begin our quest to understand this strange new breed of Psychoactivists by investigating the facts behind the hiring of Mr. Gurban. We are going to take it a step further and take a hard look at his performance over the last five years.

What is so evil about Jon Gurban?

Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Welcome to Minneapolis Park Watch Watch

Who We Are

Park Watch Watch is a coalition of park-loving citizens who have concerns about how park-pestering group Park Watch browbeats and intimidates Park Commissioners and staff, disseminates false, obfuscatory and injurious information, and is a general nuisance that costs taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in staff time dealing with their ceaseless harassment.


Park Watch Watch was formed in July of 2009 when we learned that the park-bashing citizens of Park Watch were attempting to take over the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board by running candidates to be elected as Park Commissioners. This disturbing and blatant attempt to destroy the Minneapolis Park System with some modern version of the Trojan Horse was the catalyst for Park Watch Watch.

Observing Meetings

As a watch dog organization, members of Park Watch Watch vigilantly observe Park Watch irritatingly observing Park Board meetings on a regular basis to observe first-hand official park-perturbing Park Watch business being conducted. Park Watch Watch also reviews various Park Watch documents.

Openness and Accountability

We are advocates for openness and accountability in all of Park Watch's activities.

Public Awareness

It is Park Watch Watch's intention to raise public awareness of how Park Watch makes decisions and does business. We do so through our website (, through postings on the Minneapolis Issues list, media relations, letters to the editor and one-to-one contacts.

Independent Park Board

Park Watch Watch supports keeping the Park Board as an independent government agency. In keeping with that objective, Park Watch Watch supports the eradication of Park Watch and the prevention of this park-plague from taking over the beleaguered Park Board.