At its Aug. 9 meeting, the Park Board voted 6 to 3 to stop pumping water out of the Hiawatha Golf Course by the end of the season in 2019. That means the course will be flooded because there is a dam holding back 2 to4 feet of water at 27th Avenue. Rather than take down the dam, the Park Board has decided to take down the golf course.
Politics makes strange bedfellows, and it is hard to figure out in this 6 to 3 decision just who is voting for what and why.
It is tempting to paint the factions in colors associated with the national constellations: the Clintonista liberals decided going natural was the highest and best use of Lake Hiawatha, so they decided to turn it back into a swamp. The Trumpers, retired workers who have lived in South Minneapolis most of their lives, want to keep their golf course. According to a Park Board commissioned study in 2014 there are more than 8,000 golfers in a five-mile radius of Hiawatha Golf Course, and they tend to vote, especially if they’re motivated. The Bernicrat Our Revolution (OR) young folks who took over the DFL City Convention have not spoken out on the issue, but their candidates tend to be environmental purists, so one might expect them to support closing the course.
Meg Forney, Jon Olson and Annie Young were the commissioners who voted against stopping pumping and, thereby voted for keeping the 18-hole golf course open. Young is a Green and she’s not running for re-election. Forney and Olson would normally be thought of as part of the Clintonista liberal wing of the DFL.
Brad Bourn, the only DFL incumbent park commissioner endorsed by OR, voted with the majority to close the course. He and Liz Wielinski and Steffanie Musich are running for re-election.
It will be a two-year process to turn off the pumps and close the course, so there is hope that a new Park Board elected this fall could change this decision and save the course.
Bill Shroyer, a candidate for Park Board in the 5th District, running against incumbent Steffanie Musich, told the commissioners, “This decision should not be made by lame duck commissioners. This issue will be kept alive, and supporters of Hiawatha golf are not going to give up this movement.” He said the process “has been manipulated to ignore the strong support for Hiawatha golf. The dredging of Minnehaha Creek and Lake Hiawatha has not been seriously considered, even though the Park Board dredged the Mississippi River to construct an island and a swimming beach.”
If Shroyer can win in the 5th District and if Forney can win citywide and if Olson can win in the 6th District, then in order to change this decision, supporters of Hiawatha golf would still need two more votes to get to five votes and a majority.
Southside Pride will continue to monitor the electoral landscape and report which candidates are most sympathetic to keeping golf at Hiawatha.