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Park improvement postponement hits close to home for Miller

Well, at least you can't accuse park Superintendent Jayne Miller of playing favorites with the park where she lives.

Her proposed capital budget for 2017 recommends that the long-delayed Lyndale Farmstead recreation center repairs be postponed yet another year. That's the park that includes the superintendent's house.

That would be the fourth postponement of the project.

The park building needs were first addressed in the five-year capital program presented in 2010, with Farmstead scheduled for work in 2013. The project was moved to 2015 a year later, and starting with the 2015 budget, it's been delayed twice more, making her 2017 recommendation a potential fourth delay.

After some strong pushback from area Commissioner Brad Bourn, Miller said she'd take another look through her proposed budget to see if the project could be salvaged for 2017.

"It is a very high priority in our neighborhood," said Melissa Gould, president of the East Harriet Farmstead Neighborhood Association.

The needs of the building don't differ much from other park buildings built some 40 years ago. The 1997 building needs a new roof, acessibility improvements, air conditioning and other work. The list of accessibility imprrvements is part of a system-wide evaluation. It found multiple needs ranging from doors that require too much force to open to soap dispensers that need to be lowered. The neighborhood association was advised by City Hall to shift its meetings to the more accessible Walker Methodist senior complex, according to board member Brian Nalezny.  But the Park Board still sponsors open houses on park projects in the building.

Like other buildings around the system, the Farmstead project has been delayed over the years because the Park Board was short on repair and rehabilitation money. But that was supposed to be eased with the approval last spring of a deal between the Park Board and City Hall that is intended to infuse money to repair or renovate deteriorating buildings and fields across the park system over the next 20 years.

But under the equity-based criteria that help which parks get attention first, parks in better-off areas of the city fall well down the scheduling list. Lyndale Farmstead rated 73rd on a list of 106 neighborhood parks for that money. Under Miller's proposal for a one-year delay, it would rise up the list to where that money could be tapped. 

Another reason that the project is proposed to be delayed is that there were cost overruns at nearby Bryant Square park, where complications resulting from the rebuilding of the wading pool cost more than expected and bids were high due to timing.

According to Miller, past protocol is for for cost overruns in a commissioner district to be handled by adjustments in the same district.

Field of grassroots candidates growing for 2017 Park Board elections

A growing field of grassroots candidates is seeking seats next year on the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, judging by the turnout at a Parks and Power open house for candidates last week.

At least 10 candidates, seven of them previously below the radar, identified themselves as running or interested in doing so to the 35 people attending the event held at Hope Community.

The multi-racial field lends credibility to the argument that arguments over racial equity in park services will be a major theme in the campaign.

Parks and Power has alleged inequities in park programs and facilities for low-income neighborhoods. But organizer Jake Virden said the nonprofit organization can't endorse candidates due to its tax status.

For three city-wide seats that all voters may fill, those who disclosed that they're considering a run are Khusaba Seka of the Powderhorn neighborhood, Asha Long of Lowry Hill and Cindy Wilson, a veteran Park Board employee who has been critical of the board. Three-term Incumbent John Erwin also attended, although he's not definitively said whether he'll seek another term.

Russ Henry of Longfellow, who already has announced his plans, also attended. Also in the field are incumbent Meg Forney, with others who have said they're likely to run including former commissioner Bob Fine and Mike Tate of Webber-Camden.

Ailing long-time incumbent Annie Young hasn't said whether she'll seek a seventh term.

The unfolding field leaves four-term North Side Commissioner Jon Olson as the only incumbent to not have a identified challenger so far. There's some irony in that given that his district is the only one to emerge from the last round of redistricting with a non-white majority.

Two other newcomers have announced their candidates since the event. One is Cedar-Riverside neighborhood resident Abdi (Gurhan) Mohamed, 30, who announced Friday and is the first declared candidate in the south-central District 3. The owner of a home personal care business is a board member of the West Bank Community Coalition. Three-term incumbent Scott Vreeland hasn't indicated whether he'll run. Two others, Londel French, an teacher union organizing living in Central neighborhood, and Eric Brenneman of Corcoran, also are considering running.

Another declared candidate, Christopher Meyer, 31, of Marcy-Holmes neighborhood, could test two-term East Side incumbent Liz Wielinski.  He brings experience as a political organizer and said he he'll try to raise $10,000 for a campaign that's expected to also rely on door-to-door shoe leather. Wielinski entered 2016 with a campaign treasury of about $14,000, more than twice any other incumbent.

Meanwhile, Loring Park resident Jae Bryson, 54, said he's running in District 4, which includes downtown and runs west to the city border. He's publisher of One Nation News, part of a multicultural media company. Incumbent Anita Tabb has indicated she'll likely not run again, but former commissioner Tom Nordyke of the Cedar-Isles-Dean neighborhood has said he's strongly considering a comeback in the district.

Meanwhile, Turner Neal of the Keewaydin neighborhood said he's thinking of challenging Steffanie Musich, who is seeking a second term in the Nokomis-area District 5. No additional candidates has emerged in southwestern District 6, where incumbent Brad Bourn is likely to seek a third term, with challengers Michael Derus and Hershel Ousley also running and 2013 opponent Josh Neiman not ruling out a run.