I might have let this go, were it not for the continued efforts of a group of disgraced Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board current and former Commissioners to subvert the DFL endorsed candidates and maintain the status quo. By many measures the Minneapolis Parks system is #1 in the nation and ranks well globally, as well. If that were the only aspect to maintaining the status quo, I would not be writing this and I doubt that a Public Forum on Park Policing and Equity would have been held on October 26, 2017. When I read campaign literature and comments from the principle players at Save Our #1 Parks PAC implying that DFL and Our Revolution endorsed candidates for MPRB Commissioner seats are using social issues to campaign for offices that do not have anything to do with social issues, I know that they are not being honest. They do not want to talk about racial bias in the Park System because that is the issue that forced them off the Board and caused them to lose every party endorsement. The true legacy of Liz Wielinski, Scott Vreeland, Anita Tabb, Jayne Miller, and Brian Rice at the MPRB is blatant racism and a culture of retaliation riven with fear of becoming the next target. Think about that the next time you read flyer from Save Our #1 Parks PAC or endorsed by an ex-Commissioner. The Parks have been hiding behind their #1 awards for years. Deflecting criticism and public outcry with rude arrogance, enhanced Rules of Decorum, and the Park Police.
You do not have to take my word for it. You can listen to Nekima Levy-Pounds tell you the whole story in Part 1 of this series, or right here. Keeping reading for highlights and commentary. Let’s start with a clip from near the end of Nekima’s speech. She describes her reaction to the unwarranted public scolding from Liz Wielinski. When Nekima corrects the mainstream characterization as a “shouting match” we begin to see the true nature of the encounter as a confrontation of power. Wielinski channeling the privilege of the Board to not be questioned and Levy-Pounds standing for the people pushed aside by that same sense of entitlement. The former MPRB President and ex-Commissioner gave her power to Nekima when she mistreated her in public and in front of her child. Nekima immediately gave it to the people with whom she stood to question the MPRB. Nekima Levy-Pounds transformed the fear and anger of Liz Wielinski into the positive power of listening to people express their grievances. That was an example not only of leadership, but of wisdom as well.
The inversion of Nekima’s speech continues with the next clip taken from just before the previous clip in the raw footage. Disjointing the clips from the timeline allows each to stand on their own. This brings particular aspects into relief and provides a clearer view. The interaction between Nekima and Liz crystallized everything Parks workers and managers had told Levy-Pounds into a real-time passion play that laid bare the power structure she deftly countered and triumphed with calm. It is a distinct pleasure that roughly 1 year on, I can post a week’s worth of videos and blog posts featuring the next Mayor of Minneapolis and a group of people at the root of the challenges to the MPRB that Nekima described at a public forum organized by a candidate for the MPRB, Russ Henry. Even without an election, the Levy-Pounds/Progressive DFL coalition has begun the shift the dominant paradigm.
That was not the first time Liz Wielinski had met Nekima Levy-Pounds. They had met previously and Nekima tells the story in the next clip. She does not name the MPRB lawyer, but I assume it was Brian Rice because he has been the Legal Counsul for the MPRB since the mid 1980s. (*correction- Nekima Levy-Pounds has told me it was not Brian Rice. Another lawyer from his firm. She does not recall her name.) Realize that a lawyer charging in excess of $500,000 per year to oversee the MPRB showed up to a meeting with a group of Park employees and the President of the NAACP without a single document to answer the questions about racial inequities in Parks employment and resource distribution that he knew to be the purpose of the meeting. Now try to tell me that tax payers are getting our money’s worth from Rice.
Once you see it so clearly, it is hard to imagine how this level of corrupt mismanagement, negligence, and blatant bias was able to fester for so long in Our #1 Parks. Nekima knows.
Have I told you that we do not have to accept the kind of MPRB that Nekima has described? There is still time to vote for the people you’ve seen at this forum and the organizer.