At Park Board candidate forum, similarities rule the evening

At the first forum for candidates for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, held May 11, those seeking citywide seats proved they have a lot in common — and, in many cases, don’t see that differently from each other.

Maybe that’s because three of the candidates — Mary Merrill Anderson, Tom Nordyke and Annie Young — are currently on the board, while the only non-incumbent, John Erwin, is a former commissioner.

Each said they want to find more stable parks funding, each said they support keeping the board independent from the city and each said they use the parks system regularly. They also professed a similar disappointment: that citizens have not been treated appropriately.

Nordyke said that while he’s much enjoyed his past four years on the board, poor communication has sometimes led to a rocky relationship with residents. Young said the board has to consider changes in management.

“I swallow a lot, and I feel like I have to apologize to you for the way you’re treated,” Young said.

There were a few noticeable differences during the evening. While each candidate listed finances as a top concern for the Park Board, Erwin was alone in proposing the board hire more grant writers. Merrill Anderson said the board should try to become entirely independent.

Smaller district-race forums were held later in the evening. A forum for District 4 was mostly a question-and-answer session for Anita Tabb, who had been the sole candidate in the race. Tabb talked about the board needing to become more transparent as well as more fiscally responsible.

The District 6 forum also was a question-and-answer session, as one of the two candidates, incumbent Commissioner Bob Fine, couldn’t attend.

That left newcomer Brad Bourn, who talked about forming appropriate partnerships and making the Park Board more accountable to citizens. Parks staff, he said, have been too internally focused for too long, which he said Superintendent Jon Gurban bears some responsibility for.

Bourn took a moment to acknowledge Fine’s 12 years on the board, as well as his more than three decades coaching youth sports.
“I think we need a Coach Fine in every neighborhood,” Bourn said. “But I think Commissioner Fine has seen a lot of his ideas already come to fruition.”