Commissioner No-Shows Force Minneapolis Park Board to Cancel Meetings

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board regularly makes news for all the wrong reasons.

Awhile back the board’s chaotic public meetings routinely made headlines for being disrupted and even shut down by activists, some of whom were ejected by police and even issued citations.  Don’t forget the backlash after newly elected activists-turned-commissioners voted to give themselves a 250 percent pay raise for a position traditionally viewed as a public service. Just last month the board paid out a $170,000 discrimination settlement to four Somali teens who were detained by park police.

Now the Park Board has come full circle with the panel’s public meetings being called off yet again. Not because of activists taking over the proceedings but because too few of the activists now on the board have shown up to meet the legal requirement for holding a meeting in the first place.

The Star Tribune picks up the play-by-play of the most recent cancellation.

Wednesday evening’s scheduled meeting of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board lasted 15 minutes before Vice President LaTrisha Vetaw announced it was canceled.

It was the second time this year that a meeting of the leaders of the city’s parks system did not happen because they lacked a quorum. A Jan. 29 special meeting was canceled after only four of the nine commissioners showed up.

Some worry it will happen again.

“It has to stop,” Vetaw said Thursday. “People voted for us to do the work, to make the hard decisions, and attendance is important.”

Meantime, Minneapolis slipped from first to third place last year in the rankings of city park systems. The Park Board controls an annual budget of $126 million. Some suggest “petty politics” may be behind skipping the meetings, effectively preventing the board from conducting park business.

The canceled meetings have pushed back board approvals for contracts, invasive aquatic species work and a new lease for Superintendent Al Bangoura’s residence in south Minneapolis.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who has to ratify the Park Board’s work, said Thursday he has noticed many “instances of delay” this year that have prevented him from signing off on parks matters.

“You can’t get basic business done when wrenches are thrown into gears and a quorum is denied,” he said. “It is clearly happening and it needs to stop.”

The Park Board’s next scheduled meeting is March 4. But it’s anybody’s guess how many commissioners will actually show up.