Minneapolis Park Board, District 3

This seat has been held by Scott Vreeland since 2006. He decided not to run again for the District 3 seat, apparently saying that he thought a person of color should have a chance at it. He ran for an at-large seat instead, but didn’t get the endorsement and dropped out.

There is no DFL endorsement for this seat; AK Hassan and Abdi Gurhan Mohamed deadlocked at the convention, 51/49.

On the ballot:

AK Hassan (DFL)
Abdi Gurhan Mohamed (DFL)
Charles Exner (Green-endorsed)

Charles Exner

Charles Exner is breaking from the usual trend of prioritizing kids by complaining that way too much money is spent on those stupid kids already: “New playgrounds seem to be built every year, yet Powderhorn Park still has the same adult enrichment exercise equipment that it had over a decade ago,” he says. (In fact, the playground equipment at Powderhorn was installed in 1989.)  (Correction: per a friend who watched them install it from her pottery classes, the playground has been updated since that article ran! But it was well over a decade old when that happened.) Possibly it’s worth noting that he graduated college in 2016. (If you’ve looked at his web site, which definitely does not use the most readable font ever, this probably doesn’t come as a surprise to you.)

He also wants to limit league rentals of fields “to ensure that our parks are in service first to the neighborhoods, and not to make money for contractors.” I am not an expert on how the sports leagues in town work, but it’s certainly been my impression that most of the people playing sports in park fields are from the neighborhood. Wrong? Right? Okay, reading down I found out that he got this from conversations with people at a meet-and-greet: “The other major issue I heard from both employees and parents are the need to put a limit on league rentals, as well as lowering the cost. It costs $75 to rent the gym for one hour in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Minneapolis. It’s fine to charge that much in Lake of the Isles, but we can’t have prices that high in district 3…it’s not one size fits all. Leagues are another big issue, as they tend to put reservations on soccer fields and other sport facilities that prevent the community from using them… I would motion for a stricter limit on league rentals for a maximum of 14 days a month, and under no circumstances allow league rentals on weekends in the Summer.” This may depend on the neighborhood.

His other major policy proposals: more public art in the parks, more birdbaths and pollinator-friendly plants in the parks, and set the budget after union negotiations. He also wants an “Environmental Justice Officer” who would “keep the MPRB, the Park Police, and superintendent accountable to an Environmental Justice Framework in all planning decisions.” (He also wants a Racial Justice officer. I’m not sure if it would be the same person.)

Scrolling through his Facebook, I found him making more or less a 180 on the golf course.

August 15: “The meeting room was filled with selfish, pro-golf bullies who didn’t care about the illegal dredging, and spouted nonsense that their course was of legitimate value to anyone but a vocal minority. The Hiawatha course is not a ‘historic jewel’ or anything other than a waste of space.”

August 18: “I regret that I made some strongly-worded statements about the golf course before I knew it’s historical significance to a community whose history is routinely whitewashed and erased. We need to investigate ways to keep the memory and history alive in a more sustainable way than keeping the course active. A historical exhibit within the park building, and perhaps a driving range or Putt-Putt course in the new multi-use space would be a great expression of that.”

September 7: “Even if I don’t like golf, I think that the course serves an important purpose. … The flooding at Hiawatha is caused by a dam that increases the lake by two feet. Want to stop the flooding? Here’s a radical solution–take out the dam. I support taking out the dam, and the fences around the course. Whether it’s weekly or monthly, the course should have dedicated time for sun bathers, kite-flyers and picnic-packers.”

September 13: “My stance on the golf course has been consistent through-and-through. If we are going to restore the course to natural wetlands, then the FIRST step has to be removal of the dam. Removing the dam will do one of two things. The first thing that could happen is that it will stop the flooding. Then, the area that is now the Hiawatha Golf Course can remain as it is.”

Anyway, I’m glad he’s finding his run for park board so educational but I prefer my elected officials to arrive with a bit more experience. Life experience.

He’s endorsed by the Greens, but not, incidentally, by his fellow Green currently running for Minneapolis Park Board, LaTrisha Vetaw; she’s endorsed Gurhan.

Abdi Gurhan Mohamed 

Abdi Gurhan Mohamed appears to have been Scott Vreeland’s pick as successor. (Scott donated $400 to Gurhan’s campaign back in April.) He’s a board member on the West Bank Community Coalition and owns a company that provides PCAs (personal care assistants). Last March, he sent a letter to the Strib along with two other Somali-immigrant business owners advocating for the $15 minimum wage.

In addition to Scott Vreeland and LaTrisha Vetaw, he’s endorsed by John Erwin (at least, that’s how I’d interpret the five-star review.)

Invited to take a stand on the golf course question by Ed Felien (publisher of the Southside Pride — who knew this guy was so into golf? probably his friends), Gurhan kind of dodged: “I look forward to having a strong community engagement and output in regards to Hiawatha Golf Course. It’s important that their voices are heard and they have a say in it. We have a lot at stake, and all parties involved have to come up with a solution that serves everyone.  I seek to be a fiscally prudent elected official so will analyse the pros and cons of the golf course seriously, and data will drive my decision making. I believe elected officials work for the voters, and it’s only fair that they listen to the communities they serve and take notes and implement the needs of the residents.” (I mean, that’s not a bad answer.)

In his priorities, he mentions better lighting, culturally-specific programming, fruit trees, and more rec center hours.

AK Hassan

AK Hassan, like Abdi Gurhan Mohamed, is an immigrant from Somalia. (Gurhan arrived in 2005; AK arrived in 2008.) He’s chair of the DFL Somali Caucus and chair of the Ventura Village Neighborhood Association. It looks like his day job is at the U of M.

His website lays out his priorities very concisely: accessibility, community, transparency. (Accessibility = people should all have access to parks, facilities, and resources; Community = more funding for youth development, more community gardens; Transparency = more meetings. I’m dubious about that last one. The thing is, a lot of people really don’t want to go to meetings. They’ll only show up if they desperately want to yell at you for some reason. Keeping lines of communication open so you know what sorts of decisions are going to result in this: that’s tricky.)

His more-unusual ideas: creating a Youth Advisory Council. (That’s a good one. I have a teenager who loves going to meetings.) He wants to see “large, comprehensive information boards” at every park listing events and services. That is actually a really excellent idea, for real. There’s this assumption that people who want to know what’s going on at their local park will use the Internet, but (a) not everybody has a computer, and (b) ferreting out upcoming events and classes at parks is way harder than it should be (what’s happening at Powderhorn Park? hope you want to scroll through a billion iterations of Ceramics Class to find out!) and (c) even if you’re totally Internet-savvy, you may be at the park quite regularly but not checking the website to find out that they’re holding a 10 p.m. in-the-park showing of your kid’s favorite movie or whatever. This does mean that someone needs to update the board, but you know, there’s a staff. This is a reasonable thing to have the staff do.

Anyway. The biggest visible difference between AK and Gurhan is their list of endorsements: AK is endorsed by basically all the local progressive Democrats, some of the sub-groups of the DFL, Our Revolution, OutFront.

In a situation like this, when two people seem to have pretty similar ideas, my fallback is pretty frequently endorsements, and AK is endorsed by many people who I like a lot (starting with Jim Davnie, my old State Rep, but also Karen Clark, Scott Dibble, Erin Murphy, Andrew Johnson…)

I would vote #1 AK Hassan, #2 Abdi Gurhan Mohamed.




2 thoughts on “Minneapolis Park Board, District 3

  1. Small correction, but Powederhorn did get new playground equipment last year, at least at the playground and splashpad on the eastern edge. I know, my kid and I were there the other day 🙂

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