Proposed 2017 Minneapolis Park Board Budget reflects equity initiatives

A proposed budget released last month outlines how the Minneapolis Park Board plans to use its resources next year. The plan proposed by Superintendent Jayne Miller includes a 10 percent increase in Park Board spending to update and maintain the city’s parks in 2017.

An uptick in spending is possible following a funding increase of $11 million over 2016 levels. This increase will remain in effect for the next two decades as part of the 20-Year Neighborhood Park Plan, created as part of an agreement between the Park Board and the City of Minneapolis made earlier this year. The plan features a $3 million increase in staffing to better maintain parks and $8 million for neighborhood park improvements.

Officials say funding increases come at a critical time for city parks. Minneapolis has been chosen the ‘best big city system in the nation’ by the Trust for Public Land four years in a row, but widespread improvements are seen as needed across the area.

The proposed 2017 budget is the first to reflect use of a new data-driven system meant to ensure an equitable distribution of funding across the city. Used to evaluate and address the needs of city parklands, the system has a specific focus on addressing disparities in the park services and conditions in racially diverse and economically disadvantaged areas.

In this system, an “equity ranking” helps to determine and prioritize the number and type of improvements that may be made at 106 park properties in 87 Minneapolis neighborhoods. This ranking is based on criteria that fall in two categories:

Community characteristics. These include neighborhood demographic data, including racially concentrated areas of poverty, population density, youth population and crime statistics.

Park characteristics. These include parks’ condition, lifespan and proportionality of investment since the year 2000 relative to the total value of park assets.

Generally, Northside parks rank high in the equity ranking. That means they should be eligible for funds earlier than parks from other areas of the city lower in the ranking. For example, the proposed 2017 budget features funding for Basset Creek Park, Folwell Park and Cleveland Park in 2017 and 2018.

The Minneapolis Park Board is among the first park systems in the nation to develop such a comprehensive plan to address racial equity in park spending. This development comes as the Park Board combats allegations of unequal treatment for employees of color within the workforce. Additionally, some see disparities in the condition and maintenance of parks, suggesting Northside parks are poorly kept and staffed.

The Park Board has refuted such claims and points to the new equity ranking as proof it is dedicated to equality. “The passage of the 20 Year Neighborhood Park Plan gave us a huge opportunity to be a leader in addressing racial and economic equity in Minneapolis,” said MPRB Superintendent Jayne Miller. “It’s our moral obligation to ensure these new park investments are made equitably.”

The public is welcome to comment on the proposed 2017 Park Board budget. Meetings are scheduled for November 2 and November 30. Community members who are interested can also visit minneapolisparks.org to find info on Park Board budgets and equity initiatives.