1. Do you navigate Minneapolis by bicycle, walking, or in a wheelchair? If so, for what purposes (commuting, recreation, errands) and how often? How do you understand the experiences of residents who don't have the option to drive, particularly children, seniors, and people with a disability?
My wife and I both have bicycles and are recreational riders. I walk an average of ten miles a day for work and dog exercise. Our corner house has wheelchair cutouts recently installed. My sister Debbie (RIP) was in a wheelchair for 25 years so my awareness of the difficulties for differently-abled people is very high. Another sister lives with debilitating effects of Multiple Sclerosis and has mobility issues.
2. Describe any past work or accomplishments that you have been involved with around the areas of bicycling or walking issues in your community.
I don't have specific accomplishments as a member of any coalitions around these issues. But as an employee of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board I have spend 17 years MAINTAINING paths and sidewalks throughout Minneapolis. 13 years as an Arborist (we maintain city streets and sidewalks). I am familiar with sightlines, clearance problems with low branches, and irregular surfaces as an impediment to safe biking, hiking and wheelchair travel. The last 4 years as a Parkkeeper in Maintenance Division have involved many miles of trails, paths and sidewalks. Large branches are turned over to my Forestry coworkers but I keep a sharp handsaw, lopper, and hand pruner with me. I know how tough it is to keep trails and sidewalks open because it is part of my job. Foresty and Maintenance background helps me keep our parks #1! Last year my job included 6 miles of paths along Shingle Creek Parkway to keep open of "eye-poker" branches, tripping hazards, and snow during the winter.
3. What is your view on people using the trails within the park system for commuting to work, taking children to school, running errands, etc - as opposed to using the park system for exclusively recreational purposes?
Technically the Parkway roads are for recreation---not commuting to work. This is almost never a legally introduced subject, but fast moving cars with a "rush hour" mentality puts our citizens at risk. The same problem comes up when bikers or joggers view the park system as a private domain for exercise or sport without considering seniors, differently-abled persons, folks with pets, or children with short attention spans. We all have a responsibility to "share the road!" and paths and sidewalks. Environmentally sound policy includes an increase in bicycle commuting....along with bicycle parking options. But as we increase clean commutes and cycle traffic we must keep co-mingled paths and speed limits in mind. Overall the employees and Police Officers and Police Agents of the Park Board need to balance enforcement with compassion. I have seen a willingness to "educate instead of write tickets as the normal reaction.
4. What strategies, if any, will you advance to promote racial equity in Park Board programming?
This subject would require more than 200 words!! I have tried to participate in forums, trainings, and committees throughout my 17 years as an employee. I speak Spanish fluently and have done solidarity and human rights work for decades. I have lived in Florida, California, Mexico and Puerto Rico and am a multi-culti person by nature. At the Park Board the focus is Equity-Lite version. If you mention racism at a "diversity session" the group leaders get nervous. I have pointed out that the concept of "institutional racism" applies. This means that the individuals are not necessarily bad people....but they are perpetuating harmful stereotypes and images. This "institutional" concept can be applied to sexism, ageism, homophobia or even institutional violence. Poverty may be someone else's fault but extreme poverty can lead to desperate people reacting in dangerous ways.
The consequences of racial inequality at the Park Board are primarily manifested in employment numbers. The percent of Full-time benefited jobs held by white people was around 80% most of my time at the MPRB (Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board). The percent of low paying Seasonal, Temporary, and Recreational jobs with no benefits was (and is today) around 40% People of Color. You cannot put the good jobs in with the lousy jobs together to show you have a diverse workforce!! My living wage job allows me to buy a house and take a vacation. It's about three times the compensation of a Seasonal when you add vacation, sick days, holiday pay and a pension.
5. Currently, the Park Board maintains only some trails and sidewalks in the winter time for walking and biking. What changes, if any, would you like to see to winter maintenance of sidewalks and trails in parks?
Some trails are closed during winter months due to the difficulty in maintenance and potential liability issues. If the grade/steepness makes normal clearance dangerous, it may be safer to close the trail. I have seen an over-reliance on harmful salt at many parks. The increase in salinity of our lakes and waterways is a growing disaster. Non salt-based products are rare or expensive. Staffing for plowing is also an issue. The trails and sidewalks typically involve night-time hours and on-call snow plowing operations. These employees are sometimes working long shifts in tough conditions, but sometimes the snow doesn't happen and the worker gets sent home with a short "show-up pay".
When the work is on clearing stairways or short sidewalks with a shovel the work can be backbreaking and slippery. Again the reliance on salt falls into question.
I believe my personal experiences make for a good Park Board Commissioner. I know all sides of the problem---from economics, scheduling, job conditions, and environmental. I promise to help improve walking and biking during the winter months. This isn't gonna come from a top-heavy set of managers. It's gonna come from electing new Park Commissioners that understand the problem from the ground level.
6. Park Board trails have a 10 mile-per-hour speed limit for people biking. The Board discussed potentially eliminating the speed limit in 2015, but decided against a change. What is your position on the bicycle speed limit on Park Board trails?
A trail speed limit is important to the safety of the patrons, pets, and children that use our parks. It's also important for the safety of the hardworking staff! We operate machines, tools and vehicles in all weather and lighting conditions ie. day and night. Every worker and every citizen has a story about being scared half to death by a biker or jogger coming up from behind with no warning. The balance is between limiting recreation fun and common sense. I will look at the options but do not think the speed limit should be raised yet. As bikers get the incredibly better lighting systems available today and wear reflective clothing it becomes more important to review the policies, but this is an open question.
7. What do you hope to accomplish to make Minneapolis parks and trails better for bicycling and walking by the end of your term, if you are elected?
I am a rank and file worker and also a biker/hiker. I love the parks and want to make them better! This obviously makes trails, paths, and sidewalks a top priority. I am a homeowner that has to maintain my sidewalk but I'm also the guy that knows how tough it is to actually do the job as a Minneapolis Park Board employee. When I was in Forestry Division one of my favorite jobs was "small tree maintenance". I love development pruning---the shaping and trimming to see into the future of a young tree. With the right cuts of a hand saw you can improve the health of a tree, increase safety of pedestrians, and make everything look great too.
Sometimes your vision involves making a cut to "raise" the branches over the street. That can be hard to explain to people that don't understand a tree trimming "cycle". If the next time a tree crew comes by is not scheduled to be for four or five years it seems extreme. But I tell folks that eventually a garbage truck or a moving van is gonna drive down that street and hit the lowest branches. A ripped off branch is going to be a wound to the trunk of the tree that may not ever heal.
I promise to have the same vision of biking, walking, skateboarding, and wheelchairing that I had as a tree trimmer. A good Park Commissioner will look to the future. How can we make this great system better for all citizens and the environment too. Thank you for your ideas. I will listen closely because I know the issues. Bill Shroyer