I read with interest the commentary by my colleague John Erwin regarding the upcoming Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board elections (“An outgoing member offers his recommendations,” Oct. 31). I share John’s passion and enthusiasm for our parks system and thank him for his service. I’ve served the southwestern part of the city (the Sixth District) for the last eight years, and I’m seeking a third term.

Growing up, my first interactions with the parks were when I ran away from home as a teen. Park workers helped me get back in school and reunited with my mom. I will be forever grateful to our public employees who gave me a second chance. My service is a way of giving back to a city — specifically, the parks system — that has given me so much.

I believe that the parks are for everyone. Too often, those involved in Park Board politics use provincial appeals pitting one part of town against another. In 2009, my opponent accused me of being overly concerned with the plight of north Minneapolis.

Before I joined the board, meetings were often dysfunctional, and the important position of parks superintendent was seemingly chosen based on who commissioners went to high school with instead of being a transparent, public process. It got so bad that there was serious talk of getting rid of our independent Park Board. I’m concerned that some — not all — of the candidates for whom Erwin is advocating would represent a return to those bad old days.

It is time to turn the page. I am running with a forward-looking, DFL-endorsed slate of candidates who share my belief that everyone in Minneapolis, regardless of ZIP code, should have access to world-class parks and programs.

For at-large seats, please consider Londel French, a schools employee who once ran summer lunch programs in the parks; business consultant Devin Hogan; and organic landscaper Russ Henry. In the districts, organizer Chris Meyer in the First, longtime North High coach Kale Severson in the Second, urban planner Jono Cowgill in the Fourth and incumbent Steffanie Musich in the Fifth round out the DFL team. Together, these candidates will move us into the future. We’ll advocate for our shared DFL values on the Park Board, particularly around racial equity, LGBTQ rights, environmental stewardship and labor solidarity.

Erwin’s just-the-basics approach leaves too many families behind. While shuffleboard and golf are great, our parks need to be so much more. Children in every neighborhood must have access to vital park programming and after-school services. Many candidates around the city this year are sending a similar message: Everything our city government touches should, in part, aim to expand opportunities and close the racial equity gaps that hold us all back. The parks are no exception.

Parks were there for me when I needed them as a troubled youth. I look forward to serving in my next term with a slate of commissioners who see a higher purpose for the Park Board than simply mowing the grass.


Brad Bourn was first elected to the Park and Recreation Board in 2009.