It was no surprise to me that the Northfield City Council voted 5-1 tonight to reject Ames Park as the location for the skate plaza. Betsey Buckheit was the only one to vote in favor of it. The real surprise was in the post-vote discussion where they opted to take over the criteria setting and planning process for a skate park location from the Park & Rec Advisory Board (PRAB). I briefly chatted with PRAB Richard Vanasek after the meeting who seemed stunned by the latter.
Even though Councilors were “provided with copies of all the PRAB discussions regarding the Skateboard Plaza dating from May 8, 2006 through the Special PRAB meeting of April 21, 2009”, some seemed bothered that there was no written record of how the PRAB eliminated various parks from consideration.
Jim Pokorney argued for taking over the lead at the Council level since the NIMBY factor on this issue is so strong. He indicated that the Council should select the site and the PRAB would then be charged with implementation. Rhonda Pownell also argued strongly in favor of taking over the process. Mary Rossing asked her fellow Councilors to consider the role of the PRAB but didn’t argue strongly for or against.
I think this is a very ominous turn of events and a bad move on the Council’s part.
I was hopeful of a collaborative decision when the PRAB asked the Council to delay a decision in May (see my comment here that contain Mayor Rossing’s letter). She wrote:
At a later date it will be important for the PRAB and the council to come to the table together with a clear public statement about priority and then establish a funding strategy.
But the Council rejected this (I saw it as a bit of an olive branch) and opted to vote anyway. And now they’re running the risk of compounding the bad vibes with the PRAB by eliminating them completely. It wouldn’t surprise me to see some PRAB members resign over this if the Council continues down this path.
I’ve been critical of the PRAB’s lack of communication about their process. And I understand the Council’s increasing discomfort about how long this issue is taking to resolve.
But why not ask the PRAB for details on why each park was rejected?
Why not ask the PRAB for a hurry-up recommendation on their second choice for a skate park location?
It’s not too late.