A welcome opportunity for a reset on the contentious Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board presents itself in the Nov. 2 election. Four of its nine members are not seeking re-election.
Since six new members were elected in 2017, the board has had several controversies. The board allowed homeless encampments in some parks and tried to kick the State Patrol out of a small space officers were using. Board infighting caused problems such as some members missing meetings to deny quorums and block votes.
At the same time, the board put together the draft of a comprehensive plan, with four smart general priorities — investing in youth, financial sustainability, protecting the environment and engaging community power.
Now the board needs leaders who can work well together and make reasonable decisions about park and recreation operations. With that in mind, among the candidates vying for three at-large seats we recommend incumbent Meg Forney and newcomers Mary McKelvey and Charles Rucker.
The Park Board is usually one of the most low-profile but influential governing bodies in the Twin Cities. Established in 1883, the nine-member board oversees an award-winning system that includes 6,800 acres of parklands and water. Under its management are the Minneapolis Park Police, 180 park properties, 49 recreation centers, parkways, biking and walking paths and 22 lakes.
The system receives more that 20 million visits annually and is a valuable resource not only for Minneapolis residents, but for the entire region. It has 500 full-time and 1,300 part-time employees and an $111 million annual operating and capital budget.
Board members serve four-year terms, with six from specific districts and three at-large commissioners serving as citywide representatives. Seven candidates are vying for the three at-large seats, including two incumbents.
Forney, 72, is a Realtor who is seeking her third term on the board. She's been a pragmatic voice on the board on many issues and would provide some institutional history with so many new members joining. She has been an advocate for expanding green space to support climate and environmental resiliency as well as investing in programming for youth — especially through employment.
McKelvey, 53, is a Minneapolis Public Schools substitute educator who teaches English-language learners. She would bring the perspective of kids and families to the board as a mom who used the parks with her own now-grown children and one who frequents them as a coach. She's served on the advisory board for the parks comprehensive plan and emphasized equity throughout that process.
Another coach who has also spent considerable time in the parks is Rucker, 59. Through his work with young people and experience in the community as a firefighter and EMT, he understands the needs of the city's lower-income families and how important connections to parks and parks programs are for them. Among his priorities are assuring that parks are safe and welcoming for all residents.
Our endorsements in the at-large races go to Forney, McKelvey and Rucker because of their volunteer and other work in the community and because they understand that the role of an elected, policy-setting public official is to work collaboratively to set an agenda and solve problems.
Also on the ballot are Alicia D. Smith, 40, who is executive director of the Corcoran Neighborhood Organization, and Tom Olsen, 29, a communications specialist for the House DFL Caucus. They also are solid candidates.
Opinion editor's note: The Star Tribune Editorial Board operates separately from the newsroom, and no news editors or reporters were involved in the endorsement process. To read all of our endorsements, go to startribune.com/package-opinion-endorsements/.