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MPRB Candidate Questionnaire
Russ Henry

Describe your personal experience with skateboarding. Have you ever been a skateboarder? Do you personally know any skateboarders? What is your general perception of the activity?

Confession, I suck at skateboarding.  When I was young I was a skateboarder for a few years but I wiped out all the time.  In high school many of my friends were skateboarders and I admired their skills.  Some of my friends still skateboard.  I think it’s an amazing sport. As we’d say when I was a kid in the 80’s, it’s totally radical. I just wish I didn’t suck at it.

MPRB currently has 1 skatepark in each of the 6 MPRB districts. Each MPRB skatepark is over 11 years old and is in need of replacement due to poor design and materials. MPRB has invested $0 into skateparks and skateboard infrastructure in the past decade. Over the past 4 years skateboard supporters and City of Skate have worked to have 10 new skateparks designated into MPRB master plans. We hope to have a citywide total of 20 skateparks and skate-spaces, once all masterplanning is complete in 2020. As of today, MPRB has not funded nor prioritized any one of these designated new skateparks. How will you prioritize and work to fund skateparks?

I want to get to know City of Skate advocates.  Together we can design community based engagement projects to bring out the skaters and supporters across the city in support of skateboard infrastructure.

In 2017 and 2018 Minneapolis is hosting the world’s largest skateboard competition, X Games. During X Games Minneapolis, women and men will compete in skateboarding contests that will also be added to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Skateboarding is seen by many as a worldwide equity activity that has little barrier to participation. Do you see a connection between skateboarding and social, racial, gender, and economic equity? If so, please share a few thoughts.

Skating and skateboarding are enjoyed by people of all genders, races, religions, and economic status.  Skateboarding is an equitable activity.  MPRB and City of Skate can work together to seek funding from X Games, Powell Peralta, and other big names in skating for financial sponsorship of equity focused skate parks and programs that can get boards, gear, and training to youth in need.

Skateboarding has always had an appeal to teenagers and kids, but after many decades, skateboarding is now a multigenerational activity that maintains a user group that varies in ages from approximately 4 to 60+ years old. MPRB needs more opportunities for our citizens to be active and creative. Along with skateboarding, what investments and activities can MPRB embrace to make our communities more active and interactive?

I’ve heard from lots of retirees who are interested in pickle ball courts, I’m glad to work on this with them. We need to stop cutting basketball in half and taking away their lights as has been a recent trend.  We need more opportunities for soccer.  We need these amenities in the neighborhoods where they are requested. 

I’m a supporter of safe public skating and I find defensive architecture designed to stop skaters and keep people uncomfortable to be a wrong headed direction in public life.  

I’m a proponent of cutting administrative positions in order to fund more on-the-ground employees and programs for youth.

With little to no maintenance needed, quality concrete skateparks are an efficient use of tax payer resources. Other park amenities like ballfields, pools, ice rinks, and courts need large dedicated spaces and are often expensive to maintain financially and environmentally. Additionally, during the last decade, MPRB has spent more money trying to stop skateboarding via defensive architecture (skate-stoppers) than it has on skateboard parks and/or features. With collaboration during design and build processes, would you support skateboarding via the activation of everyday park features such as benches, stairs, railings, ledges and sculptures for skateboarding?

Yes.  No more skate stopping.  We need policies that enforce safe and community friendly skating and skateboarding.  Skateboarding is not a crime.

To be able to practice and challenge their skills, skateboarders have always sought underutilized public spaces like deserted plazas, schoolyards, tennis courts, and parking lots. Often skate culture has brought a “Do It Yourself” (D.I.Y.) creativity to spaces, creating their own skate features and spaces.  Would you be willing to work with the skate community to sanction spaces for skateboarders to create their own D.I.Y. spaces?

Yes, sounds fun.  Safety, community engagement, and respect for people and property must be the boundaries in which all this work is done so that it will be sustainable. 

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