Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board announces independent advisory panel to recommend commissioner compensation guidelines

At the Oct. 3, 2018 Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) of Commissioners meeting, MPRB President Brad Bourn announced the formation of a new, blue-ribbon advisory panel in response to interest in adjusting commissioner compensation. President Bourn’s full statement is printed below:

In order to have a park system that works for everyone, we need a Park Board that represents everyone in our community. The role that compensation for elected officials plays to that end is a perennial and challenging issue. Over the last few months, my colleagues on the Park Board – particularly Commissioners Vetaw and Meyer – have tried to bring daylight to this sensitive and difficult topic. While I have disagreed with some of their specific proposals, I applaud their transparency in examining the financial barriers to service. I do share their stated goal: to have a diverse board that truly reflects the community we represent.

To that end, after consultation with the Park Board’s legal counsel, I’m establishing a special, independent, blue-ribbon advisory panel to recommend salary guidelines and an implementation schedule for the Board of Commissioners. I will be asking my colleagues to adopt this panel’s recommendations. I’ve asked this panel to report back to the Board of Commissioners with their recommendations by no later than Nov. 7, 2018 so their recommendations can be incorporated into public comments in the Park Board’s budget process. If this panel recommends a salary increase and the Board votes to approve it, I will personally donate that increase back to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board in 2019, exactly as I did in 2014.

Let me explain how I arrived at this choice and why now is the right time to tackle this matter. Up to this point, it was my perspective that before discussing our own compensation, we had to make sure we have our priorities straight. As Park Board President, I’ve been focusing my time the last several months working with commissioners and community members to find additional funding for our city’s youth, hire the next superintendent of our park system, secure funding for a full-service community schools/parks partnership, and developing Above the Falls Regional Park, which includes Hall’s Island and the Upper Harbor Terminal site.

We have made significant progress on these priorities. Just last week our Park Board levy request, including the full-service community schools partnership, easily passed the Board of Estimate and Taxation. Friday we also announced an exciting new partnership with Graco that will end years of legal haggling and yield a new world-class amenity in Above the Falls Regional Park without relying on tax dollars.

With measurable progress on those initiatives well underway, now is the time to convene a transparent conversation about commissioner compensation parallel with our annual budget discussions. It also should be noted that the previous Board failed to deal with this issue during the lame duck period late last year, as is customary, which has put us in this predicament. While I don’t personally support a salary increase for commissioners (and haven’t in the past), I also see the fundamental flaw in asking any elected body to advocate for or against their own salary. I believe it’s time to end this distraction.

I’m pleased to announce that the following leaders have all agreed to serve on this special, independent blue-ribbon advisory panel to provide a recommendation to the board on commissioner compensation. These leaders have a breadth of experience in the public, private and non-profit sectors, understand the Park Board, its complexities and the need to remove barriers to public service.

Thank you to former Park Board President Tom Nordyke, who has agreed to chair this panel, former City Council Vice President Elizabeth Glidden, former City Council Vice President Robert Lilligren, City Council Audit Committee Chair Linea Palmisano, and Executive Director of the Minnesota Latino Affairs Council Henry Jimenez for agreeing to serve in this capacity. I look forward to hearing their report in November.

Information on the MPRB’s annual budget process is available at www.minneapolisparks.org/budget.