Is the Minneapolis Park Board Playing Office Politics?

A curious thing happened at the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s last meeting on October 16. The table appeared to be set for the liberal-dominated board to approve renting office space to an unusual tenant for a government entity–the ultra-left wing political activist group TakeAction Minnesota. The resolution lauded TakeAction’s political goals of “working to realize racial and economic equity across Minnesota.”

But at the start of the meeting Park Board President Brad Bourne abruptly announced “we’ve had a request from staff and the applicant to pull” the resolution from the agenda.

The proposed arrangement had raised eyebrows among observers who were aware that TakeAction endorsed two candidates for the park board in 2017, including Londel French, now an at-large park board commissioner. The progressive group minced no words about its objectives in and outside of the election cycle.

We see issues, elections and community organizing as three legs of the same stool. We recognize we are most powerful when we work in coalition with others.

A picture and blog post from 2017 by TakeAction’s political director at the time spells out the grassroots group’s expectations for French and other candidates.

This is Amity Foster, the co-chair of our Political Committee, and Londel French, a candidate running for Minneapolis Park Board. This is co-governing: grassroots leaders from Justice 4 All running for office—and winning—to work with the community to carry out the vision and values we share.

Co-governing happens when people from our base—leaders like Londel —play big, to represent our community, while building authentic relationships with people in the community. This is how we go beyond, and do politics differently.

Nevertheless, the park board staff had recommended approving a three year lease (at a rent higher than previously paid) for TakeAction Minnesota Education Fund and its offshoot, Black Visions MN. One of the key reasons stated by staff appeared to be the group’s similar goals.

Black Visions MN aims “to center our work in healing and transformative justice principles, intentionally develop our organization’s core ‘DNA’ to ensure sustainability, and develop Minnesota’s emerging Black leadership to lead powerful campaigns.”

It’s not clear why the park board’s deal with TakeAction was abruptly taken off the table or whether it will be revisited.  No one publicly raised questions about what could be viewed as a cozy relationship between the park board and a powerful political player. Perhaps they won’t have to.