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MPRB District 1 Candidate
1) 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?
Billy Menz – I was a terrible skateboarder as a kid and have never been able to even do an ollie. This experience has led me to be in awe of those that can skateboard with some level of proficiency.
2) Skateboarding has always had an appeal to youth and kids, but after many decades, skateboarding is now a multigenerational activity (ages 3-60+ years). Minneapolis needs more opportunities for our citizens to be outside, active and creative in community social spaces.
Do the communities you would represent have existing quality, accessible and visible skateboard spaces at the moment?
Billy Menz – In District One, I coach at Bottineau so I get to see people skateboarding all the time. What is striking, is the range of ages that I see at that small skate park. This skate park is accessible to the community but I do not see enough programming for Somali youth who live close to the park or even for uncoordinated kids who may need some help getting started with skateboarding. I know lots of skatboarders but two have had a strong impact on me and my love of the sport (even if I can’t do it well). One is a former baseball player of mine who was an excellent player. He was smart, made great plays, understood the game and worked hard to perfect his craft, but skateboarding was his true passion. He quit baseball to focus on skateboarding and be with that community more. Although I want him to eventually return to baseball, I want more for him to feel like he has a place and the skate community has afforded him that opportunity. He has become an excellent skate boarder but has to go to many of the private facilities in the area to work his craft. My friend Witt is also a skateboarder and has been instrumental in supporting youth skating efforts in the community. His true impact on me has come with the realization that skateboarding has become multigenerational and creates connections between generations. His work has also demonstrated to me what great public spaces these areas can be for even us non-boarders. I would love to see Minneapolis build a regional size skate park that is an attraction for people outside of our city, state and country to visit. That might be a long term dream I share with City of Skate.
3) Women and men will compete in 2 new skateboard events at the 2021 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.
Billy Menz – Skateboarding is hard. Skateboarding is fun. Skateboarding levels the playing field for everyone. I believe that the individual nature of the sport, but the group nature of the activity can build strong relationships for young people and motivate them to be active and involved at their parks. By creating art at these spaces, like at the mini skate park above, the space becomes not only a place to hang out and be active, but a visual statement to the community. This visual says to me – “This community values to the voice of our youth.” I am hopeful that we can build more of these multi-cultural, multi-generational spaces.
4) Skateboarding is an individual challenging activity that can be done alone, but flourishes at community public skateparks that also can work within our COVID-19 era of social distancing.
How will you support skateboarding, skateparks, and what other ideas, proposals do you support to serve all youth?
Billy Menz – I am a baseball coach and a teacher. I love baseball because there is so much failure involved and young people must be willing to fail in order to succeed. This is very similar to skateboarding and the soft skills that this sport engages in our young athletes is amazingly helpful to their wholistic development. Nobody is going to pick up a skateboard and drop in on a dime. It takes effort, resiliency, practice, and reflection to become a proficient skateboarder. Plus, it is so fun. Minneapolis should be leading in our efforts to create a vibrant skate community and right now we are stagnant. We can do better for young people.
5) In 2018 MPRB approved a Skate Park Activity Plan that was a 5 year process that began in 2013 with a Community Steering Committee. Additionally, with the completion of MPRB citywide Master Planningin 2020, 20+ skatepark and skateboard spaces have been approved system wide.
Will you support funding to help complete the MPRB Skate Park Activity Plan and the 20+ spaces already designated to provide safe skateboard/wheeled spaces for youth and communities? Are you willing to champion an annual line item on the MPRB CIP directly for new, improved and accessible skatepark facilities in the high equity rated parks for prioritizing recreational youth development?
Billy Menz – I am very supportive of skate parks and will support funding these amenities at the parks designated, but I think we should also think bigger. I have traveled and lived all across this country and see skate parks as a great measure of a park system. Skate parks are some of the most visually appealing and active spaces that the park board can maintain. They do need maintenance, but I believe we need to start honoring the promises the MPRB has made to the skate community of Minneapolis and I will be a strong advocate for more funding towards exploration activities like skateboarding.