A discussion about Minneapolis park fees on the floor of the Minnesota House Monday took a peculiar detour when Republicans successfully linked the issue to dangerous sex offenders.
For years, Minneapolis has been trying to acquire the right to charge developers a fee to build or renovate parks near their projects. A technical change in state law to make that possible passed the House Monday, but an amendment could make the fee near-impossible to implement in some parts of Minneapolis.
Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover, pushed successfully for a tweak that prevents the fee from being levied for parks within 1,500 feet of a level-three sex offender's home. That's about five to seven blocks, she said.
"It's not guesswork to figure out that registered sex offenders shouldn't be playing near our children," Scott said.
Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, added "a green vote will help protect these vulnerable children. And a red vote will fail to do so."
Rep. Peter Fischer, DFL-Maplewood, countered that while the amendment is "trying to protect people from a sexual predator, you're also denying everybody else that's very close to that location the opportunity to have a park that they're able to get to."
The author of the bill, Rep. Frank Hornstein, urged that the issue should be first vetted by the public safety committee. But it was nonetheless attached to the bill in a vote of 86-43. Hornstein expects it will be reviewed further when the House and Senate bills are resolved.
The amendment could have a major impact on the ability to fund parks in some parts of the city such as North Minneapolis, which has the largest concentration of sex offenders, according to the Southwest Journal. Incidentally, since the language only addresses developer fees paying for parks near sex offenders, taxpayer dollars could likely still be used.
“They’re hoping that that can be used in a political campaign," Hornstein said later in an interview. "And it’s gutter politics. It’s the worst of politics. And I’m glad that at least 43 of my colleagues resisted that.”
Here's the text of the change:
"Park land acquired or developed with fees paid under this section must not be within 1500 feet of the residence of a person designated as a risk level III predatory offender under Minnesota Statutes, section 244.052, subdivision 3."