Mess with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, and park buildings are off-limits to you.
That's what happened when Jim Bernstein, who chairs the city's Charter Commission, tried to reserve park buildings for four community meetings to discuss three proposals to amend the city charter. One of those would abolish the Park Board and move parks under the City Council.
The commission hasn't taken a stance pro or con on any of the proposals, but top park officials overruled their park building staffs and decreed that no discussion of that proposal would take place in park buildings.
"I think it's outrageous," said City Council Member Paul Ostrow, who is taking the lead on the three charter proposals. "These are public buildings paid for at public expense."
But Park Board President Tom Nordyke said in a letter to Bernstein last week: "I cannot support holding the meetings in our buildings and wasting more taxpayer dollars and staff time on this initiative." Allowing the meetings would suggest that the Park Board backs the proposals, and board policies don't allow park activities that do not support the board's mission, he added.
Nordyke said he and Superintendent Jon Gurban made the decision, and offered Bernstein an appeal at the board's April 1 meeting. But Bernstein said he's been scrambling instead to secure library facilities at which to hold the meetings in late April. The canceled meetings were to be held at Webber, Pershing, Corcoran and Waite Park parks.
Ostrow argued that the Park Board can't discriminate among those who want to use its facilities on the basis of their mission or content of activities.
"I would hope they would consult with their legal counsel," he said, "because they're on very thin ice, maybe no ice at all."
Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438