Sunday, November 1, 2009

Minneapolis Park Board Intrigue!

Guest post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, images from Michael Guest for Minneapolis Park Board Facebook page, and, respectively.

This email came to me a while ago and I had waited to publish it. Given its direct, although intricate, political content, my preference was that John would blog about it instead of myself. But we're getting too close to the election to allow this information to remain unpublished. "Information wants to be free," John says. I prefer "Information begets information," but the sentiment is the same.

In that spirit, here is some Minneapolis Park Board information to get out there...

The email sent to me is as follows (links added are mine):

"Recently the Star Tribune wrote about the conflict of interest between Brian Rice and the Minneapolis Park Board." (JNS disclaimer: Strib links often go dead over time, but there is no other link to this pertinent story.)

"Considering the challenged state of north Minneapolis parks and the important role they plan in the vitality of our community, we decided to take a look at the Minneapolis Park Board race.

The lawyer-lobbyist has worked for the Park Board since 1985. His firm made over $600,000 last year and this has been a consistent amount over the years.

We looked at Jon Olson's report.

Olson’s campaign finance report, dated September 1st. Olson raised $5,600. Of that, $2,400 was itemized. Of the 9 itemized contribution – those over $100 – 6 had a direct connect with Brian Rice. Two were labor PACs a third a PAC for motorcyclist.

Brian Rice’s contracts are up for renewal after the election. Do his and his allies' generous contributions to candidates around the City influence their decision on who to hire? Are we getting the best value? Considering Rice has recently lost two high profile legal battles, is the Mpls Park best represented by the Rice Michels firm?

Shouldn’t the Park Board have a Conflict of Interest policy that would not allow employees or contractors to be allowed to make a donation to Park Board candidates?"

(End email message)

I am admittedly unfamiliar with some of the questions raised here, but I do believe they are important ones to ask, especially in the days leading up to an election. JNS readers are encouraged to submit comments. I was also sent campaign finance reports for both Jon Olson and Michael Guest. Those are included in the JNS pdf site. I've looked at both of those reports and see that the itemized section of Olson's report shows contributions from PAC's. Guest's itemized contributions are from individuals. Personally, I'd rather have someone in office who, due to contributions, is beholden more to voters than to PAC's (even ones that I like, such as Police and labor).


Johnny Northside said...

These are the times I think THANK GOD the Hawthorne Hawkman is keeping the blog going while I am stuck in Alexandria, Minnesota, awaiting a two-week trucking run starting tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Thank GOD Jeff is blogging for you while you are away.

Anonymous said...

The comments on Brian Rice are true but he has been on his way out a few times before only to come back when his replacements just didn't know the obscure law around what he does well enough to do the job.
There are a few interesting tidbits that you haven't published.
Both Guest and Rice are political operatives that practice the Machiavellian stile. Guest was a Southside operative until he lost the endorsement he was favored to win in the 9th Ward to Garry Schiff. After that he went on to run the city wide campaign for the slate of insurgent Park board candidates 4 years ago. He squared off against Rice who ran the campaign for the other faction. Rice won that round.
One of the issues for that campaign was how stupid it was for the Park board to locate its headquarters on the Northside. This year looked like it was going to be a replay of 4 years ago until the candidate for district 2 that Guest was backing decided not to file. Now Guest is the candidate and is portraying himself as a Northsider although that seems a stretch since he lives in NorthLoop.
I view this race as a grudge match between Guest and Rice. Olson is not a vigorous campaigner but he has done well getting money to Northside parks and then there is that park board headquarters along the river that he championed. Guest has not stated anywhere in his literature that I can find what Olson has done that is bad or what he would do that Olson has not done.

LAWmoose said...

It's interesting. Several years ago I filed a complaint against one of the Park Police officers. My complaint was forwarded to Rice, Michel & Walther (Brian Rice's firm). They investigate those complaints for the Park Board. They sent me a letter saying that they were "dismissing" my complaint because they didn't see the officers behavior as deliberate. I find out later that RM&W also represent the police union a would defend the officer. Talk about a conflict of interest!!

Ranty said...

@anon 5:47

Jon Olson is totally out of touch.

What about the Shingle Creek Lake idea that was floated before the Park Board even went to the residents? Is it wise to suggest a plan which takes out 300 homes when you HAVEN'T EVEN TALKED with the folks who live there??


And Jon's been good at getting money for the parks?

Like Glengale park in Jordan? Visit it.

(Oh, and care for a game of horseshoes?)

Michael Guest does live in North Loop, and that happens to be a part of District 2. (And ward 5 too, at least where he lives.)

Saying this doesn't make him a Northsider is like me saying that Jon is not a Northsider either because he lives up in that manicured region North of Lowry...

And then don't get me started on the fact that Jon didn't even have an email address forever.

And why hasn't he been out in the community this summer talking with people about what he's doing for our neighborhood parks? I've been to a zillion events this year and the ONLY place I saw him was at the endorsing convention. (Where he DID NOT gain DFL endorsement, let's recall.)

It is time for a change.

Expect the best - VOTE FOR GUEST.

Low End Leroy said...

I was on the fence with this one.
Thanks for your input. You've convinced me.

taxpaying liberal said...

Wow! It’s amazing how the truth gets twisted in elections. The shingle creek thing was floated in a retreat in a free flow of ideas. It didn’t go to the residents because it wasn’t going to happen. If something was going to happen then they would have gone to the residents. Nobody going to take out 300 homes and to even suggest that is a cheap lie.

Guest moved to the Northside last year as is on his own website.

Jon has been an advocate for this community for many years. His dairy queen sponsors all kinds of things like youth sports teams, Youth school programs etc.. And he’s been doing that forever. What has Guest done? Name one charity in the north side Guest has supported in the same manner that Olson has.

The change you are advocating for is to replace a person that has been involved in his community for most of his life and is always there and donates time, money and resources for someone who runs around complaining about how bad everything is.

If you want to see what a person will do, look at what he has done.

I’d put up Jon Olson’s record in the North side against Guests non record any day. Talk is cheap.

MikeT said...

Who was it that thought a frisbee golf course between the Parkway and Vincent was a good idea a few years ago?

That guy isn't running again, is he?

Nikki said...

Jon Olson brings a LOT of money to the Northside. Here is a quote from Senator Linda Higgins on a piece I got in my mail. "Jon Olson has been a tireless advocate for the Northside. Whether at the capitol or in the parks, Jon is there, working to get our fair share." Look at his website and you'll see an enormous amount of content in terms of accomplishments and vision for the future.

Anonymous said...

I'm voting for Guest.

Anonymous said...

Visit Glengale Park in the Jordan Neighborhood, then tell me about the money Jon Olson is bringing to the northside.

I'm with Ranty on this one...

VOTE for Michael GUEST!!!

The Hawthorne Hawkman said...

Comment unintentionally deleted and re-posted to the best of my recollection:

"Is 'Ranty' Connie Nompelis, Michael Guest's girlfiend? Please let us know."

Park Watch Watcher (name of commenter may be inaccurate)

Ranty said...

@Park Watch Watcher:

You are half-right. I've confirmed my identity on this blog many times, as have John and Jeff in their posts, links and references.

But no, I am not Michael Guest's girlfriend. Sorry to disappoint.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Jon Olson is the best man for this job! Seriously, he doesn't have an email is a reason to not support someone?!? He's far more accessible if you stop in his DQ on Lyndale, as his consituents are often known to do.

Jon's the best .. fah-get about Guest!

Anonymous said...

Jon Olson has done a lot for the Jordan neighborhood. In 2005, he approached JACC and said that the $250K budget to upgrade was not adequate. The Park Board held several meetings with Jordan residents to see what they wanted. The final cost was going to be about $450K. Jon came up with an additional $100K for Jordan (which came out of the funds designated for a more well-to-do neighborhood), and JACC came up with $100K from their NRP funds. Jon works hard for the Northside, and has certainly done something very valuable for Jordan.

Anonymous said...

To Anony @ November 4, 2009 4:09 PM.

Where exactly did that $450K go? I didn't see anything on his canpaign lit. Also, there haven't been any meeting with Jon Olson in Jordan in years. I voted for Michael Guest because we need a change, so I hope this message makes it to Olson.

Okay, got to go now on the 30 min drive to take the dogs to the park since we don't have one!

@ November 3, 2009 7:37 PM

Aaaaahh, YES. Not having email is a good reason not to vote for someone. Email is a standard office tool in this era.

"He's far more accessible if you stop in his DQ on Lyndale, as his consituents are often known to do."

That's hilarious. Does he hold regular office hours at the DQ or can we wait in line to talk to the park commissioner?