Some candidates for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board are criticizing a political action committee formed by outgoing board members that accepted a donation from the Minnesota Jobs Coalition.
The Save Our #1 Parks political action committee (PAC) backs a slate of candidates that includes incumbents Meg Forney and Steffanie Musich. It has sent mailers criticizing other candidates and asking people to vote for candidates the committee supports.
All nine seats on the Park Board are up for grabs in the Nov. 7 election, and the competition has been fierce. There are 26 candidates running for the board.
Two incumbents dropped out of the race after failing to win DFL endorsements at the city convention, and many of the candidates who did win the endorsements lean further to the left on the political spectrum and have the backing of Our Revolution, a spinoff group of the Bernie Sanders campaign.
The Our Revolution candidates have called attention to such issues as racial disparities, increasing diversity in Park Board staffing and eliminating the use of pesticides in parks.
The Republican-aligned Minnesota Jobs Coalition gave $15,000 to the Save Our #1 Parks committee, according to recent campaign finance reports. Other contributors included the campaign funds of outgoing commissioners Anita Tabb and Liz Wielinski.
Park Board Member Brad Bourn, who was one of two incumbents to win the DFL endorsement, said he’s concerned by the Jobs Coalition’s involvement. It’s a big donation from a group that has been critical of the Park Board and has opposed its outside funding, he said, adding he’s concerned it could influence the election. “Fifteen thousand dollars is more than a lot of my constituents pay [in] rent in an entire year,” he said.
Wielinski, the political action committee’s treasurer, was one of the candidates who dropped out of the race after she did not get the DFL endorsement. She said they formed the PAC because they were concerned the Our Revolution-backed candidates would drastically change the Park Board.
“After the DFL endorsement, we didn’t feel like these candidates would continue the good work that we have done in the past eight years,” Wielinski said.
John Rouleau with the Minnesota Jobs Coalition did not return a call for comment.
At least one candidate backed by Save Our #1 Parks has voiced concerns.
LaTrisha Vetaw, a candidate for one of the at-large seats, said she did not agree with the group’s tactics. Vetaw said the group used her photo in mailers without her permission and attacked a slate of candidates they opposed. Since then, Vetaw said, she has been fielding questions from her wary constituents.
“I denounce the PAC and I don’t want to be associated with them,” Vetaw said. “I’m not into negative campaigning.”