Harriet concession set to undergo longer study
Feeling too rushed for time, two of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s commissioners have proposed the board step back and let citizens have a bigger voice in the future of the Lake Harriet concession.
In January, Park Board staff brought forward two leases: one that would bring Sea Salt Seafood Eatery to the concession and one that would have another vendor, Fun Time, pick up the tradition of selling popcorn and ice cream. Had the arrangement been approved, the Park Board would have set itself up to build a new structure, as the ice cream cooler and popcorn maker would take up more space than Sea Salt could handle.
Commissioners said they felt rushed. "It seems like it’s the cart before the horse," Annie Young told staff.
Residents were befuddled, too. Some asked whether the parks system really needs another seafood restaurant, Young said. (A Sea Salt eatery already stands at Minnehaha Park.)
Commissioner Tracy Nordstrom said she was taken aback by the "unexpected swelling" of concerns.
"I don’t want anybody to be pissed off about this at all," Nordstrom said.
To clean up the mess, she and Commissioner Bob Fine proposed the creation of a Citizen Advisory Committee. If approved by the full board, it would feature seven Park Board-appointed citizens, one from City Council Member Betsy Hodges (13th Ward), one from Mayor R.T. Rybak, one from the Metropolitan Parks and Open Space Commission, and two from surrounding neighborhoods.
As proposed, the committee would be responsible for recommending food choices, atmosphere, and a scope for the concession, as well as researching available revenue options. As for whether this means a new structure is out of the question, Nordstrom said there’s no ruling anything out.
"I don’t think we’re at that point yet," she said.
To prevent the committee from being under any strict time pressure, staff is negotiating a one-year lease with Fun Time to at least provide popcorn and ice cream this summer. (Without such an arrangement, there could be no offerings at the concession this year.)
"I think it’s safe to say there will not be expanded concessions for the 2009 season," Siggelkow said.
Special attention on the way for Lake Calhoun
Lake Calhoun is set to get a bit of extra citizen attention this spring.
Commissioner Tracy Nordstrom said she’s been in discussions with several of Calhoun’s neighbors to host two meetings to get up to speed on the lake’s needs and people’s wants. For residents new to the area since the mid-’90s, it will partially act as an information session on major planning sessions held more than a decade ago.
The meetings are partly born from the recent stewing over the maintenance-slash-overhaul of the lake’s south shore parking lot. That was a project Nordstrom said came from planning that was done long ago, lingered until funding was available, finally got set to be done this summer and then faced criticism over a lack of citizen input.
"If six months notification isn’t enough, how much lead time do you need when we’ve only just learned the funding is coming through?" Nordstrom said.
The meetings are expected to be held sometime in late March or early April. One will be on a weeknight and the other during the weekend, Nordstrom said.
Who’s running for reelection?
There’s a quick answer to which current Southwest representatives to the Park Board will be on the ballot this fall: everyone.
Mary Merrill Anderson, citywide: The board’s vice president, Merrill Anderson was first elected to the board in 2005. She has a long history with the parks system, previously serving as Park Board superintendent.
Bob Fine, District 6: If he wins reelection, it would be Fine’s third term representing Southwest. He also served one term as a citywide commissioner.
Tracy Nordstrom, District 4: After one term on the board, Nordstrom says she’s not ready to give up her seat. "I have come to really love the job," she said. "As all politicians say, there is still work to be done."
Tom Nordyke, citywide: The Cedar-Isles-Dean resident is seeking his second term on the board. He currently is serving his second year as the board’s president.
Annie Young, citywide: Young is seeking her sixth term on the board. A community organizer by profession, she has been a strong voice for all things green.
Lobbyist gets a lighter reception
A month after Commissioner Walt Dziedzic chastised one of the Park Board’s lobbyists, he apologized.
"I opened my mouth, and I will never do that again," the often outspoken Dziedzic said at the Feb. 4 legislative committee meeting.
In January, he called out lobbyist Maryann Campo for not providing weekly reports like the board’s other two lobbyists, who work for a different firm. Fellow commissioners responded that it’s not in Campo’s contract to do so, something Dziedzic said he would have tried to change had he seen more support on the board.
His tone was markedly different at the later meeting, joking about how much information Campo was listing off to the committee.
"When I critiqued our lobbyist for not reporting, I didn’t intend that she do it all in one night," he said to a roar of laughter.
Campo said she does a lot of work, even if she notifies the board differently.
"As you can gather by now, I’m in the halls [of the capitol] all the time," she said.