Court sides with city in park board battle

The park board said it will appeal court ruling

Allison Hugill

The long-fought court battle between Minneapolis and its park and recreation board is over âÄî at least for now. The Minneapolis City Council decided to keep a referendum giving taxation powers to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board off the ballot. The park board sued the city, but Friday Judge Cara Lee Neville brought the suit to a close ruling in the cityâÄôs favor. Immediately following the decision, Brian Rice, one of the park boardâÄôs attorneys, said the board would appeal the decision. âÄúWe really think the voters should have had a right to decide this, and we intend to appeal the decision,âÄù he said. âÄúWe believe the courts will ultimately give the citizens a right to decide it.âÄù Rice took the case to court last month after the city council voted 11-2 to deny putting a park board amendment on the Nov. 3 ballot. This would have allowed the board to become its own independent body of government, giving it the right to increase property taxes, as approved by the state Legislature. Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Vice President Mary Anderson said she was disappointed in the judgeâÄôs decision, and that she did not know the context of her ruling. Anderson said she thought the tax dollars the park board has been getting are disproportional to tax dollars the city council received. âÄúThere is a priority on the city council and the mayor to fund other things,âÄù she said. âÄúThe parks have not been a priority, and [because of that] we have not been in a position to do the things that the community wants us to do,âÄù she said. On a petition the park board circulated to get the referendum on the ballot, 10,825 of the more than 17,000 people who signed were registered voters. But the council dismissed the petition, Anderson said. âÄúWe were left with no request,âÄù she said. âÄúWe had gone to a lot of effort … and we felt like we had to do what was our responsible civic duty, and that was to go to court âĦ and let the people decide.âÄù Minneapolis City Council Vice President Robert Lilligren said one of the reasons he opposed the park board amendment was because he didnâÄôt think the council was receiving adequate data about where the park board money was being directed. âÄúIâÄôve been very clear,âÄù he said. âÄúEveryone else seems to understand what IâÄôm asking for, but for some reason I get these convoluted questions back from the commissioner and the superintendant of park and the data doesnâÄôt come forward.âÄù Ward 2 Councilman Cam Gordon was only one of two city council members who voted in favor of putting the referendum on the ballot. âÄúThey had enough signatures to put it on the ballot, and I didnâÄôt think we had enough of a justification to keep it off the ballot,âÄù he said. âÄúThis is just another indication that we need to get together and talk and do a lot more work before we really have a solution thatâÄôs going to make things work better.âÄù