PARK BOARD DISTRICT 6 // voter’s guide 2009

With two-time incumbent Commissioner Bob Fine out of the picture — he’s running citywide this year — the race for the Park Board’s far-Southwest District 6 is wide open.

It features candidates who come down on the same side on many issues: Don’t reduce investment in neighborhood centers. Vote no on the Board of Estimate and Taxation ballot issue. Keep the Park Board separate from the city.

But they do differ in some key respects. Take the minutiae of the aforementioned independent Park Board issue, for example.

Meg Forney supported the recent initiative to get on the ballot a referendum to make the Park Board more financially separate from City Hall. Forney said the city and the board are two different governmental bodies with two different missions. Making the Park Board more like the suburban Three Rivers Park District, which is a creature of the state rather than an offshoot of any City Hall, could be a boon for Minneapolis’ green space, she said.

Brad Bourn, on the other hand, said he supports the status quo. There is a certain working relationship the city and the parks need to have, and forcing them side by side in the system that currently exists is the better choice, he said. (Part of that status quo: Keeping the Board of Estimate’s membership as is.)

To Steve Jecha, the parks should not become a department of the city. He said the city hasn’t managed the quality of its roads particularly well, and he worries about how that would translate to managing parks.

Jecha filed largely to protect the Park Board’s recreational activities, he said. For 12 years, Fine often has been the board’s voice for recreation, Jecha said. So when he saw that Fine had not filed to run in District 6, he decided to enter his name in the race.

Jecha currently is the executive director of the Southwest Hockey Association, a position he took when the group was about $100,000 in the red. That debt has now transformed into a surplus, an accomplishment Jecha cited as another reason to elect him. The Park Board needs commissioners with entrepreneurial experience to help it wade through the current economy, he said.

Bourn’s ideas for dealing with the financial crunch come down more on the side of cutting unnecessary spending. That doesn’t mean taking away from neighborhood centers or programs — no, he’d like to see the focus on those increase. What he said he instead wants is for the board’s commissioners to stop getting as many fringe benefits as they are today. (On top of the relatively small annual pay commissioners get, they collectively receive an additional $150,000 worth of fringe benefits, Bourn said.) He also would like to see the superintendent’s pay get more in line with what the mayor of Minneapolis earns. (In 2007, Superintendent Jon Gurban earned $124,304. Mayor R.T. Rybak earned $95,999.)

Bourn, the most-endorsed candidate in the race, also said he would like to see the Park Board open up a search for a new superintendent — Minneapolis has some of the country’s top parks, he said, and therefore should have one of the top superintendents — and do more to connect with residents. He suggested commissioners go to more neighborhood meetings, and he proposed televising an executive summary of every Park Board meeting. (Currently, the only option for TV viewers is to watch the full hours-long meetings.)

Forney is focusing her campaign — her third for a Park Board seat — on her lengthy résumé of citizens’ advisory committees. She has sat on more than half a dozen of those, some of which she chaired. Forney also was the chairwoman of the Above the Falls Phase I Design Development citizens’ task force, as well as the chairwoman of non-profit People for Parks from 1982 to 1989.

She’s a big supporter of strategic visioning (she used past campaigns to promote the idea of a new comprehensive plan, which the board created and passed in 2007) and partnering with other green space-focused entities such as the Three Rivers Park District. She also said the Park Board should ramp up the use of its fundraising nonprofit arm, the Minneapolis Parks Foundation.

Another candidate for the District 6 seat is Geneva Hanvik. The recent college graduate could not be reached for comment. Her campaign website, hanvikforparks.wordpress.com, remains blank.

District 6 covers Southwest north of Lake Street plus the East Calhoun neighborhood.

For a recap of an Oct. 8 Park Board District 6 candidate forum, click here.

THE CANDIDATES

Brad Bourn
Age: 30
Occupation: youth program coordinator at nonprofit
Neighborhood: CARAG
Experience: master’s degree in public and nonprofit administration; board member and consultant, Twin Cities arts organizations; recipient, Presidential Volunteer Service Award
Website: bradbournforparks.org
Phone: 423-9901
E-mail: [email protected]

Meg Forney
Age: 60
Occupation: Realtor
Neighborhood: West Calhoun
Experience: chairwoman, Above the Falls Phase I Design Development Citizens Task Force; former chairwoman, People for Parks; former member, West Calhoun Neighborhood Steering Council
Website: megforney.org
Phone: 926-7707
E-mail: [email protected]

Geneva Hanvik
Age: 23
Occupation: grocery store supervisor
Neighborhood: Kingfield
Experience: recently graduated with political science degree; volunteer and lobbyist, statewide and national campaigns; paralegal
Website: hanvikforparks.wordpress.com
Phone: 240-4295
E-mail: [email protected]

Steve Jecha
Age: 46
Occupation: Realtor; executive director, Southwest Hockey Association
Neighborhood: Lynnhurst
Experience: former CEO of a printing company; former CEO of an electronics manufacturing company; soccer and hockey coach
Website: jecha.com
E-mail: [email protected]