Candidate for Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Commissioner-At-Large

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Why a Vote for Meg is a Value-Added Vote

  • She is passionate about Parks.
  • She has proven commitment.
  • She practices public service.
  • She jumps in with both feet.
  • She finds creative solutions.
  • She is a team player.
  • She sees the big picture.
  • She listens before she acts.

It’s time for Meg Forney as your Commissioner-At-Large of our Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board!

Not a single-issue, agenda-driven advocate but one who sees tremendous opportunities, not overwhelming problems

I have steadfastly worked on civic committees and projects because I am committed to the quality of life that defines this city.

Take Action

TakeAction Minnesota Candidate Questionnaire
2017 Elections – Municipal Races

Name: Meg Forney
District: At Large
Phone: 612-926-7707

The guiding principles for our endorsement are TakeAction’s Prime Directive: “to connect and lead with others a statewide, multi-racial independent political alignment that challenges corporate power, structural racism and gender oppression to win governing power, and achieve a truly democratic and equitable society.”

We want to use this questionnaire as a chance to get your input on our shared ambitions to achieve long-term structural change that improves people’s lives in Minnesota, and to hear your thoughts on how we can use this election cycle to set to grow our movement in 2017 and beyond.

Please email your completed questionnaire to Jaime Makepeace, Political Director, Your answers will be copied and distributed to endorsement screening participants.

TakeAction Minnesota endorsement criteria:

  • Will this candidate be a bold leader on our progressive vision for Minnesota? Does their life experience illustrate bold leadership on our vision?
  • Does this candidate have a plan to build power by organizing people and organizing money?
  • Is this candidate willing to co-govern with the progressive movement to implement our shared vision?
  • Would you (a TakeAction Minnesota leader) be excited about supporting this candidate with your time and money?

Questions: Please Reply

What are the values that motivate you?

To always protect the public’s interest – against encroachment from hate groups, railroad misuse, corporate advertising, sale to private investors, other governments take over, sex trafficking.

Why do you want our endorsement?

I was first introduced to Take Action when fighting against the Marriage Amendment. Their community engagement and progressive agenda are values I embrace.

What is the core message of your campaign?

Our parks define the quality of life in Minneapolis. I am not a single-issue, agenda-driven advocate but one who sees tremendous opportunities, not overwhelming problems.

How will you win your election?

Being present. In my first term as one of your citywide Park Commissioners, I am actively engaged in the greater community, attending meetings, listening to constituents and showing up. The best way to find support of voters is through face-to-face contact. I will continue to reach out through city-wide community engagement and one-and-one interaction. I have the support of leaders across the city due to our productive work accomplished. I have established strong citywide as well as county and state relationships with community leaders: through my past work of serving as my neighborhood board’s appointment as an original board member of the Midtown Greenway Coalition, representing south Minneapolis on the original Above the Falls Citizen Advisory Committee, chairing the Theodore Wirth Beach Re-Do and appointed to the Southwest Light Rail Transit Citizen Advisory Committee. I will continue to stay connected through various media platforms as well.

What are you excited to accomplish if elected?

    I believe in the egalitarian access to our parks, void of barriers: physical as well as social, economic, cultural and political. I advocate for stronger access to and from our Park amenities that are safe, welcoming, and seamless, translating into more open space for the riverfront, thereby, enhancing our north and northeast communities as well as continuing to deliver to underserved mid-city users by eliminating barriers.
    I will be fervent in seeking additional, alternative funding to maintain our #1 status, ensuring financial sustainability to continue to provide access to all. I will continue to build bridges through collegial relationships with multi-jurisdictions to solve problems together.
    I will continue to advocate for the quality of life in Minneapolis that our Park System provides. My passion and leadership during 35 years of civic service has been to continue the tradition of providing green and open space for our urban livability. Each resident of Minneapolis is within six blocks of a park – my goal is to enhance these assets by breaking the barriers that exclude some from the use and enjoyment of our park system. Equity in our city is critical for it to grow and all to prosper.
    by reforming our sentencing laws and criminal justice system

How would you co-govern with TakeAction Minnesota’s, and other progressive groups’, memberships?

Partnership and collaboration has been a hallmark of my advocacy. I would seek the input from such groups and keep them informed on issues.

How will you ensure that Black Lives Matter? Specifically in your work as a municipal leader, what policies to end discriminatory police practices and criminal justice reforms will you champion?

My freshmen year I returned home prior to homecoming and announced I had been asked to homecoming by the assistant editor of our college newspaper where I was the feature editor. My father quickly responded that if I went with him, I should not plan on coming home ever again … because he was black. That was my first realization of overt racism. First, I felt shame and that has evolved in my pro-active community work. My former husband and I “courted” over racism and feminism – me as the Youth Director at the YWCA and he, the Social Justice Director for the National YWCA. I am proud that I was part of creating the National YWCA’s imperative to Eliminate Racism and Empower Women. My work at social service agencies over the years have been with marginalized communities like being the Associate Director of Project for Pride in Living and a HeadStart assistant. The role of the Park system is to be accessible to all members of the community.
I will continue to support regular training of our Park Police. See answers to #10.

We seek to elect bold visionary leaders whose mission is to advance our shared values. We see corporate power, structural racism, and gender oppression as the biggest barriers we face in enacting progressive policy.

How specifically would you, as a municipal leader, move legislation that ensures race and gender equity?

The Park Board has strong policies to ensure race and gender equity. Park Board policies are best moved with vetting on all levels inside as well as outside the system. Our recent enactment of the no-smoking policy took three years to create. Understanding what was realistic enabled the final crafting of the ordinance. Working collaboratively with the community, stakeholders, and colleagues is paramount. I will continue to advocate for gender neutral facilities, on-boarding and career-tracking our employees and assure our parks are safe havens for all through empowering others in my leadership.

We know that just passing a progressive bill is not always enough if we don’t intentionally look at the ways different communities are impacted – how would you organize within the City to win positive change for our diverse communities?

The Park Board has engaged with Voices for Social Justice and Hope Community with listening sessions. Proactive steps are being taken to address engaging the community through varied options. Education needs to be integrated in our system. The recent passage of restoring the name Maka Ska will be embraced positively with more cultural history laced into the landscape such as the artwork to be installed at its southeastern shore.

We believe that workers should be able to meet their basic needs through the wages they earn.

Even an increased minimum wage is not enough for families in Minnesota to make ends meet. Do you support a living wage that would guarantee that every Minnesota worker earns at least $15 an hour? How would you lead on raising wages?

When I was a divorcee, a living wage was not there. As a self-employed person with no benefits, the steady escalation of heath insurance cost was not affordable. My emergency gall balder surgery, while uninsured, left me financially impacted for years. A living wage, health insurance and sick leave for all is essential for the whole community to prosper.

The Park Board has voted to incorporate living wage increase in our 2018 budget following the City of Minneapolis guidelines for our seasonal and part-time employees. Our Teen Teamworks and Learn to Earn programs will be most impacted. Off-setting these will take collaborative work across political lines in the Legislature.

Over a million Minnesota workers lack access to earned sick & safe time, the basic right to take time off work when they or a family member are sick or to respond to incidents of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. Working with employers, small business owners and low wage workers, how will you hold the city accountable to thorough paid sick time enforcement?
The Park Board policy reflects the City’s. Obligating our contractors to these standards is paramount.

We believe that people who have been through the Justice System and are living in community deserve fair access to participate in every part of our society – including voting rights, employment and housing. Currently, tens of thousands of Minnesotans are denied many basic rights because they are still on probation for a felony – even though they have finished their prison sentence (or were only sentenced to probation).
Do you support restoring voting rights for people with a record who are not in prison? How would you lead on this issue?
Yes, I agree with restoring voting rights for those who have completed their prison terms. I have actively worked in three venues: with Sarah Walker when she was with Second Chance in Banning the Box, with the League of Women Voters to register voters especially after they have completed Citizenship Ceremonies and with Secretary of State Steve Simon’s work to fight voter repression. In a Trump era, we need to be vigilant in protecting voter rights as well as advocating for those who have served their time.

The state mandates that all workers of the Park Board are considered working with children, thus requiring stricter vetting. The Park Board needs to create specific jobs that are non-child related to broaden its employment base.

More than 90% of employers and landlords hold irrelevant and outdated criminal history information against applicants during the screening process. This creates a major barrier to employment and housing and has a disparate impact on low income communities of color. Would you support policies preventing employers and landlords from using irrelevant, unrelated, and outdated criminal history information in the screening process?

Yes, I agree that data should be current and will request all MPRB venders’ data be such and relevant.

We believe every child across Minnesota should benefit equally from our quality of life and have the power to make our state better. While some studies place Minnesota at the top of their educational measures, we know a shameful disparity exists between white students and students of color. What do you believe are the important factors in significantly increasing equitable educational opportunities and outcomes for each and every child towards closing the existing education gaps?

Education is the most fundamental skill to raise individuals out of poverty. The Park Board has many educational opportunities through the park system and presently is working on our Memorandum of Understanding with the School Board to collaborate on programming and facility use.

My work as an HeadStart assistant was critical. Educating children before age five has a return on investment as high as 13% annually. Children do not learn well on an empty stomach. MPRBs is the number two hot meal provider in Minneapolis

From our family farms and rural towns to our suburbs and cities, we rise together or fall together as a state, not as individuals.

What do you see as next steps in raising fair, progressive revenue and investing in the common good?

The Park Board’s initiated “Closing the Gap” to assess park conditions and the growing funding gap in our 160 neighborhood parks. I was one of its lead Commissioners in building a coalition of public and private partners that resulted in the City of Minneapolis’ historic agreement with the Park Board that will reverse decades of chronic underfunding. The 20-Year Neighborhood Park Plan (NPP20) provides dedicated annual funding for maintenance, rehabilitation and capital improvements in neighborhood parks, while also protecting current Park Board funding levels. An additional ordinance adopted in July 2016 ensures that NPP20 projects are prioritized using a criteria-based system based on racial and economic equity, a first ever matrix. The rollout of this funding will require strong oversight.

Corporations benefit from public investments, how would you limit unrestrained corporate power and hold corporations to the public?

Downtown East Commons is an example of where the public good was pro-actively protected by the Park Board from corporate power. The exclusive use by the Vikings of the adjacent parkland was in direct conflict with the public’s use and enjoyment. The property will revert to a public park once the Vikings contract ceases. Our naming policy prevents the permanent naming of areas of our park system – our parks can not be bought.

Environmental racism is very real in Minneapolis and Saint Paul – fossil fuel facilities, poor air quality, high asthma rates, lack of multimodal transportation plague many low-income communities and communities of color, amplifying the level of environmental racism we see in our state. How do you plan on addressing these disparities and create a just transition to a future that invests in green jobs that are accessible to these marginalized communities?

Parks are the “lungs of the city.” The Park Board plants thousands of trees every year to improve air quality. I was catapulted into park public service when 13 elms were taken from my boulevard. The newly formed Shade Tree Committee of my neighborhood directed the replanting with the Park Board.
With the City of Minneapolis being in a park (over 6800 acres), I am committed to making these green spaces accessible, especially to low income and minority communities.
Our Green Team initiatives give young people career-tracking jobs in the environmental field and the majority of these jobs are filled with underserved and at-risk young adults

In downtown Minneapolis, the HERC (Hennepin Energy Recovery Center) garbage incinerator burns over 1,000 tons of garbage a day. There are 18 elementary schools within a 2-mile radius of the incinerator, and the fumes from the burner flow primarily into North Minneapolis and East Phillips, two communities that are inhabited predominately by low income people and people of color.

In Minnesota, burning garbage is seen as renewable energy. Do you support a transition away from HERC? If so, how do we invest in a zero-waste city that also invests in the communities most affected by racial disparities?

As an original member of the Above the Falls Citizen Advisory Committee, we have been pro-actively working to raise the quality of life in the north and northeast communities by converting the Mississippi from an industrial corridor to a green corridor. The action behind the closing of the Northern Metal scrapping plant on the Mississippi took years of documenting disparate conditions in north Minneapolis. Working with public and private partnerships we hope to evolve clean jobs that people can walk to.

What role would you play at the city level in supporting seniors who need access to quality care as they age, as well as their caregivers, both paid and unpaid, who need access to dignified work?

My mother as she aged with dementia needed more activity in her life and a social worker suggested day care. Her world became active and engaged, instead of shut down and comatose. In our service area master planning more senior programing is requested. I have asked for recreation centers to be open seven days a week incorporating more programs for seniors.