Monday, July 24, 2006

"Roaming Paws" turns to the Internet and petitions

Roaming Paws, a "grassroots" group which favors construction of a dog park in the city limits of Grand Forks, has set up a new website entitled "Roaming Paws Off Leash Dog Park Community Connection". This group is also starting to pass around a petition in support of a dog park.

Why do I put the word "grassroots" in quotes? Well, I see on the front page of the website that Melanie Parvey-Biby, the Greenway Coordinator for the City of Grand Forks, is prominently listed as being a part of this group and a contact person for those wishing to join. Perhaps this isn't news to some people, but it is to me. Parvey-Biby is a paid employee of the city of Grand Forks. Why is she becoming heavily involved with a "citizens" group that favors construction of a semi-controversial project that would be funded by her employer...the city of Grand Forks? I personally just don't like the sound of that. What do you think?

BTW, I notice that the group favors a fenced dog park. Why then was Parvey-Biby so fervently pushing the city council a few months back to fund construction of a fenceless dog park downtown? Apparently someone realized that a dog park without boundaries wasn't exactly going to fly with most people.

Picky me, but couldn't Roaming Paws find some better pictures? Who found this creepy 1980s stock photo?

If you're interested in reading more of my opinions about the prospects for a dog park(s) in Grand Forks, check out the following links...

How I think a dog park could be paid for without taking neighborhood parks out of service and without requiring the city to put up the money.
The results of a poll I did about dog parks in Grand Forks.
Information about a petition being circulated by people who don't want a neighborhood park in southern Grand Forks to become a dog park.

14 comments:

Coffee Guy said...

I hate to sound like a broken record, but what's up with the website design? If you want to be taken seriously, at least have a serious looking design. This design (and the ad-infested Tripod site) tells me that this is not a serious venture.

Dave Miller said...

I wasn't going to say something, I thought maybe my ranting the last couple weeks about the city of GF website may have made me look like a lunatic... out here only beat down people's websites.

I have one discription for ya... while I'm here.

The website looks like dog doodoo. Not sure if I can say shit. Wait, the Prez said shit... it must be okay. The people who put together this site are so used to looking at dog shit, they probably couldn't tell the difference.

There, now I feel better.

GrandForksGuy said...

LOL, Dave...you're nasty!

Any feelings on the close ties between this "citizens" advocacy group and a paid city employee whose job it is to manage the Greenway?

Dave Miller said...

Oh yeah... I forgot about Ms. Biby. Grand Forks has a long history with government and private conflicts of interest. It seems to me that Ms. Biby was simply taking notes from her contemporaries and those that preceeded her. It need to be said very loudly that once you become a government employee, you lose a little bit of 'your' freedom of speech. In that, if you are out (on your own time) supporting a proposal by the city, the perception is that you are doing so FOR the city. Perception is reality. If you want to be a citizen activist get a job at McDonalds and have at it.

I think the biggest problem in all of this is the blurred world that the Grand Forks Greenway Project exists in. That is what I would like to explore further. If they are calling this website 'citizens advocacy' then we have a problem.

Oh, the website design makes sense now.

Tu-Uyen said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tu-Uyen said...

Why don't you guys ask Melanie before making accusations?

The city's policy is to build a dog park -- yes, it's true and has been for several years now -- the question is where and at what cost. Melanie works for the city and is charged with all things having to do with the Greenway, hence her connection to the dog park. She works with Roaming Paws because that's part of her job.

Why did she want a fenceless dog park? Because that's the direction that came out of staff meetings. Melanie works for the engineering department and the department responded to fears by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that fencing would block flood debris. Now that the council says it wants a fenced dog park, that's what engineering would work on.

GrandForksGuy said...

Tu-Uyen, I'm not making any accusations against Ms. Parvey-Biby. I reread my post and I just don't see anything that could be called an accusation. What I do see is valid criticism.

What I'm saying is that I personally think that there is a problem with a paid employee of the city becoming a leader/contact person in what most people would assume is a grassroots group of concerned citizens. If there is so much interest out there in a project like this, couldn't the group find someone more removed from city government to be their public face?

Tu-Uyen said...

I'm not sure Melanie is even aware of this Web site, which is why I think you should chat with her before you brand her the group's "leader."

You're under the assumption that she is fighting for the dog park as if the city were resisting the idea. That is simply not the case. You are resisting the idea. As far as I know, the city still wants to build a dog park. The controversy, as I mentioned before, is where and at what cost.

Anyway, I believe that Melanie's a member of some taskforce that works on the dog park. Roaming Paws, I'm guessing, has some members on the taskforce. This would be the normal pattern. There were a lot of homeowners and landlords on that UND neighborhood rezoning taskforce. City staff members such as those from the planning department were also on that taskforce. You couldn't call them advocates. And it'd be unfair to do so had the homeowners decided to put the city planner on their Web site.

Dave Miller said...

Is Roaming Paws a "citizen" advocacy group or not? If is then why is this their contact information:

Grand Forks Greenway Project
City of Grand Forks
PO Box 5200
Grand Forks, ND 58206
phone: 701-746-2733
fax:701-787-3744

If it's an advocacy group for the city then clear that up for me and I'll shut up and lay off the accusations. But, at last check Ms. Biby is the Greenway Coordinator and in such, a city official and the perception I have is that Roaming Paws is a "citizen" advocacy group. I have visions of the waterpark in my head.......

Tu-Uyen said...

Cripes. I keep telling ya. Ask Melanie if she knows she's a member of Roaming Paws! Did anybody ask? No! In journalism, we call before we make accusations. That's called being fair.

I've talked to Nancy Joyner, the woman that sort of leads the group, and she's not politically experienced enough to know that it's not one big happy effort. The city is a separate entity. In other words, Nancy probably thought that if you wanted to talk to somebody about a dog park, you can call the city.

GrandForksGuy said...

Well, if I was Melanie and I was not an actual member of Roaming Paws, I would hate to have someone make a website that led people to believe that I was some sort of leader for the group and a contact person for those wishing to join.

Coffee Guy said...

Are you saying that Ms. Parvey-Biby might not even know that she's involved with this group, yet she has been the one assigned to open its mail and answer the phone (that's her direct number at work) "if you would like more information or are interested in becoming a part of our organization"? Incredible. It sounds like a misuse of our government's funds to me.

Tu-Uyen said...

I'm saying she might be involved in this group in an official capacity as a member of some dog park task force. See the post about the UND neighborhood rezoning. I don't see how that would be a misuse of government funds. Lobbying from inside City Hall would be a misuse, but we've already talked about how that might not be true. Lobbying, by the way, is not following existing policy but to change it. We've also talked about the city's policy of seeking to build a dog park.

Coffee Guy said...

I understand how private-public collaboration works, as I work on several projects run in conjunction with the federal government, large commercial entities, our own non-profit, etc. However, the fact that she is the main contact for, and answering questions with regard to the membership of a not-for-profit organization IS a questionable practice.

The website does not say to contact her with regard to information specific to the possibility of dog parks in Grand Forks. It says to contact her about Roaming Paws. Big difference.

Your lobbying example is misuse for sure, but one very specific and obvious example of such. Misuse can manifest in myriad ways.