Candidates for Park Board District 6: Southwest Minneapolis
>> Brad Bourn (DFL-endorsed)
Occupation: current Park Board commissioner, managing director of Ten Thousand Things theater, works for Veteran Justice Corps at Council on Crime and Justice
Top priorities: Improve Park Board relationships with community and other government entities; expand invasive species education; expand volunteerism and community service in the parks
Endorsements: DFL, Council Members Elizabeth Glidden, Betsy Hodges, John Quincy, Lisa Goodman; State Senator Scott Dibble, Sierra Club, Stonewall DFL, DFL Latino Caucus, IATSE 219, Senator Hayden
The biggest priority for incumbent Brad Bourn is harmony between the community, the city of Minneapolis and the Park Board.
“Four years ago, after a decade of dysfunction and nepotism in the Park Board, people were losing confidence in the institution,” he said. “In 2008 and 2009 people were talking about getting rid of the Park Board.”
Now that talk has gone away, Bourn said, and the agencies are working better as partners.
If reelected, Bourn also wants to expand invasive species education. Due to new programs enacted during his three-year term, he said, staff have stopped several boats infested with zebra mussels from entering Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun. Prevention can avoid costly environmental problems, he said.
“The Park Board didn’t do a whole lot with milfoil [infestation],” he said. “Now we spend almost $300,000 a year on harvesting.”
Bourn also wants to expand volunteerism and community service in the parks. He’s proud of his recent work to partner with Conservation Corps Minnesota. Through the program, about 100 kids a year volunteer in the parks — that type of engagement hasn’t happened since the mid-1980s, he said.
Aside from the Park Board, Bourn works at the Council on Crime and Justice, aiding military vets who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury. He also works as managing director at Ten Thousand Things, a theater group that brings the arts into venues like homeless shelters and prisons.
Bourn said his upbringing illustrates one of the clearest distinctions between him and his opponent, Josh Neiman. Bourn grew up in Minneapolis, and ran away from home for a time. He received encouragement from a staff member at the rec center in Logan Park, and he spent time with The Bridge for Youth. In another term, Bourn wants to work toward better equity in park programming.
“I am a person who had a lot of second chances growing up,” he said. “I’m closer to knowing firsthand what a lot of kids in Minneapolis go through. … It makes me a better advocate.”
>> Josh Neiman (DFL)
Occupation: digital intelligence and optimization manager at Best Buy
Top priorities: Proactively engage the community to build a strong parks system; use parks to build community; improve water quality; provide fiscal responsibility; ensure maintenance of parks and programs
Endorsements: MinneapolisProfessional Employees Association; Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, AFL-CIO
If Josh Neiman’s name rings a bell, it’s probably because of the Neiman Fields near Fort Snelling State Park. Josh’s dad (Scott) and grandfather (Leonard, the fields’ namesake) previously served on the Park Board.
“They instilled in me a love for community service and a love for the park system,” Neiman said. “I joke that it was brainwashing.”
Neiman’s own experience with the parks includes driving a “mobile playground” — a huge truck and 20-foot trailer packed with equipment for parks without a year-round park building. He worked at the parks for six years throughout his time at Southwest High School and the University of St. Thomas, supervising field trips, playgrounds and gym time. At Windom Park, he encouraged area seniors to start playing their weekly bridge games at the rec center. As a result, the seniors started walking through the parks on nice days, he said.
“Little things make big things happen,” Neiman said, borrowing a line from legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.
To elaborate on that point, Neiman said he wants to bring a lens of fiscal responsibility to the Park Board. He doesn’t want to continue raising taxes and raising the budget.
“There are tons of great amazing big projects that are absolutely needed and worthy, but we can’t forget about those little things, especially when it comes to building community at neighborhood parks,” he said.
He pointed to athletic teams and Art in the Park as examples of inexpensive yet valuable programs.
Another of Neiman’s top priorities is improving water quality. He said water quality at Lake Harriet has started to move in the wrong direction in the last two-three years. He’s interested in making sure wetlands are in the right spots and potentially add rain gardens.
Neiman doesn’t want to critique the Park Board’s performance — “hindsight is 20/20,” he said — but he thinks there is room for improvement in terms of inclusive leadership. He wants to make sure lines of communication are open between other governing bodies, especially the School Board.