Live from Minneapolis: the Park Board?

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February 2, 2004 // UPDATED 2:47 pm - April 24, 2007
By: Scott Russell
Scott Russell

A sign greeting visitors in front of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board's meeting rooms at its new headquarters, 2117 W. River Parkway N., reads: "For your protection, portions of these offices may be under video surveillance."

Unfortunately, one room doesn't have a video camera: the board meeting room.

The issue came to the forefront after the Park Board's 11th-hour decision Dec. 17 to hire Jon Gurban as interim superintendent on a 5-4 vote. The Park Board had not given public notice it would vote on Gurban, and Gurban had neither applied nor interviewed.

Unlike City Council meetings, the Park Board does not broadcast its meetings on a cable channel or the Web. If you want to watch, you have to show up.

On Jan. 7, the board gave Gurban one of his first assignments: "To study public awareness of board activities, including the broadcast of meetings on cable," a media release said.

Gurban's report is due by Feb. 20. One key issue is cost; the board did not budget money in 2004 to buy and install equipment to broadcast meetings, nor was money allocated to pay for added staff time.

Commissioner Walt Dziedzic suggested Gurban's report also include information on how many people watch the Council and school board meetings on cable.

"You'd be surprised how few people will be watching," he said.

Two citizens attending the Jan. 21 meeting brought their own video cameras.

John Berthiaume, a Linden Hills resident and airline ticket agent, said he has videotaped the meetings on and off for several years, "just in case something historical happens," he said.

He keeps the videos in an archive, he said. His wife, Joan Berthiaume, works with the Minneapolis Parks Legacy Society and is a Park Board meeting regular.

(The Legacy Society has been at odds with the Park Board over the use of the former superintendent's house in Lyndale Farmstead Park. The Park Board has leased it to the Minnesota Recreation and Park Association, a trade group Gurban used to head.)

Steven Nelson, an unemployed Willard Hay resident, said he started videotaping after Dec. 17. "I thought it was important to have a video record," he said. "They don't."

He said he edits his video for the Minneapolis Television Network and submits it.

"Hopefully, I can parlay this into a television show," Nelson said.