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Contentious Issues Loom at First Dog Park Advisory Committee Meeting

Members brought up concerns that the composition of the committee didn't include Linden Hills, as well as worries that proposed dog park locations would interfere with Roberts Bird Sanctuary or the Peace Garden.

Monday was the first meeting of the Citizen Advisory Committee that will help decide where the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board locates an off-leash dog park in Southwest Minneapolis.

Despite the fact that the controversial King Park location is off the table, the issue continues to be divisive as neighbors living near the three proposed sites expressed concerns about parking, increased traffic and proximity to the Peace Garden and Bird Sanctuary.

Where are the proposed parks?
Jennifer Ringold, city planner for the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board outlined the under consideration. The Peace Garden location is bordered on the North by Lakewood Cemetery and on the West by Roberts Bird Sanctuary, 1.13 acres in size. The second location is just South of the first, where a parking lot primarily used by park staff currently resides, .91 acres in size. The third site, near the Southside Operations Center, has recently been expanded to include 2.05 acres, though some of the area includes water, which would not be useable. 

The three sites were chosen within a service area of the 6th Park District bounded by I-35, Minnehaha Creek, Humboldt Avenue and the edge of the Roberts Bird Sanctuary. The service area was determined based on the voiced need from Kingfield neighborhood residents to have a dog park in that area, she said. 

Advisory committee expanded to 27 possible members
Some people attending Tuesday’s meeting raised concerns that not all vested interests were at the table. At the beginning of the meeting, the CAC consisted of 19 members (although not all members were present and representatives from the Peace Garden and from the Latino Community have yet to be appointed). 

Several CAC members suggested the discussion be opened up to the very full room of attending community members. At that point, a number of community members  expressed concerns about representation for Linden Hills neighborhood, which is close to all three sites and has partnered with East Harriet and the Audubon Society over issues surrounding the bird sanctuary's revitalization. There were also community members that stated that neighborhoods from the eastern side of I-35 needed inclusion because they've been active in the dog park issue all along.

Jonathan Lee, who was appointed to the commission by the Kingfield Dog Park Task Force, questioned why there needed to be a Latino representative if East African and Hmong communities were not also represented. Park Board President John Erwin responded that it was decided to have a Latino representative when King park was under consideration, because so many Latino residents use that park. 

In the end, it was decided to add two members from Linden Hills to the CAC, two members total from the Regina, Field, Bryant and Central Neighborhoods, and to offer invitations to the Hmong, East African and African-American communities to see if they were interested, and if they were to offer them a spot. It also includes a representative from the trail garden. If all invitations are accepted, the membership for the CAC will be up to 27 people.

Committee members expect "contentious issues"
After the discussion of the committee's membership, the committee debated whether to reach decisions by vote or by consensus.

Matt Perry, who was appointed by park board Commissioner Bob Fine, suggested consensus was preferable, although it took longer. Consensus doesn’t mean unanimous, Perry said, it means that even if the minority view was voted down, there would be an effort to reach a creative solution. “If done well, it allows for minority positions to be heard,” Perry said.

Lisa McDonald broke into tears as she spoke of the challenges faced by the committee — she'd previously served on another difficult committee. “We know there are going to be some contentious issues,” McDonald said. “Given that we have been given a time frame, an up or down vote gets us there faster.” Though consensus is “hip,” McDonald said, it sometimes allows for the loudest voice to win.

The advisory committee decided against the consensus model. 

A number of East Harriet residents also testified about locating the proposed dog park in their neighborhood — most of them opposed the park. Although a young man said he looked forward to it because it offered opportunities to socialize with other dog lovers.

Lucy Rollins, a young mother, said that she often takes her young children to the Peace Garden and Rose gardens, where the children learn about nature. “Those gardens are a gem to my family," Rollins said. "They are a sanctuary to our hearts and love.” Rollins didn't want to see a dog park disrupt her sanctuary. 

The next citizen advisory committee is March 28, 6:30 p.m., at Lynnhurst Recreation Center.

Erica Mauter March 23, 2011 at 04:49 PM
I'm curious as to how they plan to solicit reps from the listed marginalized ethnic groups.
Jon Collins March 31, 2011 at 12:28 PM
I removed two comments that were personal attacks on the writer. I'm more than willing to host discussion and alternative perspectives, as I have in the past, but slander towards writers isn't acceptable. Thanks, Jon Collins
Andrew March 31, 2011 at 01:02 PM
Removing those comments seems pretty extreme. I read them both and didn't view them as personal attacks on the writer. In one case, Mr. Lee was complaining that by paraphrasing his quote the author had distorted his views and in the other case, the editorial decisions of Patch were called into question. Neither should be termed a personal attack on the writer.
Jonathan K. Lee March 31, 2011 at 01:49 PM
Thank you for the above Andrew. This is the type of "journalism" I've come to expect from this website. They'd rather let a distortion of the truth remain, instead of allowing a clarification by the person misquoted to be disseminated to the public. Apparently the editor feels the same way. This is the second time the same writer has done this. Is this publication NOT interested in telling the truth? Leaving my quote as it is is not giving the public the correct information. In fact, it turns it into something it is not. Refusing to correct it is irresponsible, and a disservice to the community you claim to serve.
Ben March 31, 2011 at 02:30 PM
Agreed, but then again it certainly feels like Patch doesn't mind a distorted view to spice up their coverage of events. The story works a lot better if there's conflict or a way to portray one group as antagonistic towards others. Having been involved with the Kingfield Dogpark Task Force myself, I know that one of our challenges has always been that we've bent over backwards to make sure that our efforts reached out to the wider community, sought to include their input, and were not at the cost of negatively effecting or alienating other stakeholder groups - much the point of Mr. Lee's insistence on adding members from the Hmong and East African populations to the CAC, but that efforts to play different groups against each other has made for better press. When the Star Tribune insisted on playing up the controversy - including a blatant reversal of the meaning of a statement by an elected official in order to stir the pot - we approached Patch asking for the same type of fair coverage they had shown to other stakeholders in a profile piece on the opposition. Instead we got a line or two in yet another "controversy" piece and an offer to be allowed comments or editorial space - neither of which is treated with quite the same reverence as the reporters' voices that go unquestioned. Frustrating treatment by a media source that purportedly seeks to "strengthen communities and improve the lives of their residents" by "mak(ing) it easy to participate in discussions".
Matt Peiken March 31, 2011 at 06:14 PM
Jonathan, can you please detail how you were misquoted and what the intent of your quote was? Also, are there feelings and thoughts of yours that were or are misrepresented in our coverage, at large?
Faye March 31, 2011 at 07:50 PM
Andrew, Thank you for having the nerve to speak up for both me and Jonathan. My own comments were indeed not a personal attack. Rather I called in question a reporter who has (as I stated in my previous comment which is now deleted) shown a pattern of not reporting facts accurately and misrepresenting what she said she was going to report---statements I can only make after bearing witness to both. I am flabbergasted that a private citizen is chastised for making "personal attacks" after pointing out errors in an article. Would someone tell me what has happened to journalistic integrity?
Jonathan K. Lee March 31, 2011 at 08:02 PM
Matt, My EXACT words were: "If the Hispanic Community is to be represented. then we need to have representation from the East African, African-American, and Hmong Communities as well." What your reporter wrote in the above article implies that I was saying that the Hispanic Community DIDN'T need representation. The CAC members present at the first meeting will back that up. This is what I have come to expect from that particular reporter after she lied to the Dog Park Force in our group interview with her. She told us she would gladly tell our side of the story. What she wrote instead, was a profile of the CIA for MLK opposition group, with a single, out-of-context, and highly provocative quote from me. I believe what Patch is doing falls under the definition of Yellow Journalism. From my own experiences with your publication, I no longer believe this publication is trustworthy.
Matt Peiken March 31, 2011 at 09:13 PM
Jonathan, I'm really sorry you've had this experience with Patch. Our goal, with our journalism, is to find and accurately and comprehensively tell the stories and shed light on the news happening in our respective cities and neighborhoods. Of course, we're human and we make mistakes. We're also relatively new and still establishing our rhythm. If you or anyone else believes they're misrepresented in a story, please contact the Local Editor for that Patch, along with me, and we'll find a way to rectify it. If you see a story that, in your view, gets it wrong, let us know. Now, in any given instance, we may not necessarily agree with your assessment, but if we've done our job well, you will always feel as if you've been treated with fairness. My email is matt.peiken@patch.com and phone is 612-562-2053. Feel free to reach me directly with any thoughts, concerns or questions.

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