The municipal election season in Minneapolis has rolled into its final stretch. Candidates for all city offices are campaigning in various neighborhoods, competing in candidate forums, and blanketing the area with lawn signs. Your Examiner has covered the City Council race in the 13th Ward as well as the mayoral campaign, but now turns to another important race, that of the Minneapolis Park Board. There are three at-large seats on the Park Board (meaning they cover the entire city), and ten candidates are vying for those positions. For more information on these at-large candidates, Ben Johnson at the Southwest Journal has a good rundown. Your Examiner is pleased to present an interview with at-large candidate Meg Forney (disclosure: the candidate and your Examiner both serve on the West Calhoun Neighborhood Council as volunteer board members).
Ms. Forney is a “fourth generation” resident of Minneapolis, originally from Edina. She attended the University of Minnesota, where she gained degrees in Art History and Interior Design. Her previous jobs include an assistant with Head Start, camp counselor for disadvantaged youth, youth director at the downtown YMCA, and Associate Director at the Project for Pride in Living. Ms. Forney currently works as a real estate agent for Coldwell Banker Burnet. Other community engagement in her past includes working with People for Parks, fundraising for the Lake Harriet Band Shell, membership on the city’s Committee on Urban Environment, and as a key player in attaining NRP (Neighborhood Revitalization Program) funds for the West Calhoun neighborhood. Ms. Forney first ran for the Park Board twelve years ago. She decided to run again this year after Commissioner Bob Fine announced he would be running for mayor of Minneapolis. She first got interested in public service when she lived in the East Calhoun neighborhood, where she witnessed multiple elm trees killed by Dutch Elm disease. This inspired her to join a shade tree committee in her neighborhood. This was followed up by stints on her neighborhood board and as editor of several local newspapers. Regarding what sets her apart from the other at-large candidates, Ms. Forney said her experience is the key difference. She has sat on many Citizen Advisory Councils in Minneapolis, chairing two, and said that this “hands on” experience has helped her in “being successful.”
When asked about what she enjoys most about the city’s parks, Ms. Forney stated that the park system “defines the quality of life in this city,” citing the Trust for Public Land’s number one ranking for Minneapolis. She stated that there is a “park within six blocks of every resident." Ms. Forney also said “accessibility” is a major issue for the park system and mentioned that throughout the city’s history the parks have helped create “strong communities” and “open spaces.” Asked about what she thinks needs improving, the candidate said there needs to be more work to ensure “egalitarian access.” She stressed that there should not be any “physical, social, cultural, economic, or political barriers” to the park system while also saying that the city’s increasing diversity makes this a challenge. Ms. Forney also noted the importance of the city’s recreational centers, saying they are a “magnet for the community.”
The next question dealt directly with the Southwest Light Rail and how it will impact the West Calhoun neighborhood. Ms. Forney stated that “walkability is terrible here” and that the light rail station must create access. She said that the sailing club may not necessarily have to move over to the west side of the lake but thought that there could be more done with the parking lot next to the executive center. Ms. Forney also questioned what to do with the soccer field, asking “how can it be best suited for the future?”
Regarding other priorities for the park system, Ms. Forney cited the “huge opportunity to add value to the school district” using its “sixty centers attached to schools” to work on the “achievement gap.” She also spoke of using the park system for “anti-bullying” measures and to ensure that the parks are known as “safe havens.”
Finally, speaking about the ranked choice voting the city uses for municipal elections, Ms. Forney stated that she thinks it is “not equitable” for the Park Board at-large seat since there is no way for voters to rank their selection for each of the three seats. She advocated that the Park Board have “alternating terms” like school boards, but said that RCV as a whole helps prevent negative campaigning since candidates have to “appeal to opponent’s supporters” to select them as a second choice.
Meg Forney is running for one of three at-large seats on the Minneapolis Park Board.