counter statistics

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Stupidity Virus Hits the Star Tribune

They are promoting the Twins Stadium Boondoggle again.

In the case of a ballpark, a localized referendum would disenfranchise all Minnesotans with an interest in baseball (and other attractions) who reside outside Hennepin County but who still pay sales taxes when they visit. That's a lot of people to disenfranchise.

Huh? If this stadium is there to benefit all Minnesotans with an interest in baseball, then let all Minnesotans with an interest in baseball help pay for it. Why should Hennepin County taxpayers be singled out for a tax increase for this?

This was a 4-3 vote on the Hennepin County Board in favor of this plan. Mark Stenglein, one of the commissioners voting in favor of the plan has a conflict of interest that has been well documented by the City Pages and the Strib. Stenglein failed to disclose his conflict of interest to the public prior to the vote.

A few weeks after Stenglein voted to approve a sales tax earmarked for a new $478 million Twins stadium--on land where Lambrecht's investment company is the managing entity--the Star Tribune reported that Lambrecht had hosted a fundraiser and played an influential role in Stenglein's unsuccessful 2001 campaign for mayor. The paper also revealed that a Stenglein aide took a three-month leave of absence from his county job to work as a lobbyist for Lambrecht. (Source: City Pages, Heavy Hitter, Britt Robson, Sept 14, 2005

Stenglein told an overflow crowd that he was "proud to support" the proposal, and that "big thinkers did big projects." What he did not tell them, although he had discussed it privately with his County Board colleagues before the 4-3 vote, was that he has a close personal and political connection to Bruce Lambrecht, a central figure in the limited partnership that owns the proposed stadium property.

When Stenglein ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Minneapolis in 2001, Lambrecht was an influential member of his campaign -- holding a fundraiser for Stenglein at Lambrecht's home and leasing office space to the Stenglein campaign. Lambrecht, according to Hennepin County Commissioner Penny Steele, an opponent of the stadium plan, helped recruit Stenglein to run for mayor and was "probably one of his best friends." Stenglein's campaign manager during that race, Brian McClung, later worked as a lobbyist for Twinsville Inc., a company used by Lambrecht to help promote the stadium and a redevelopment plan for the surrounding area. McClung now serves as Gov. Tim Pawlenty's spokesman.

And last year, a Stenglein aide took a leave of absence from his county job to work as a lobbyist for Lambrecht and Twinsville Inc. The aide, Mike Sable, said he was approached by Lambrecht and others for the job, and said he cleared the three-month leave with Stenglein.

In recent interviews, Stenglein downplayed his relationship with Lambrecht and said that because they have no private financial dealings, there is no conflict of interest. Stenglein said he does not plan to abstain on any future votes on the project at the county, where his vote is seen as critical. The withdrawal of his support could scuttle the stadium proposal, which is currently awaiting legislative action. (Source: Stadium Vote Puts Friendship in Focus, Mike Kaszuba, Star Tribune
May 29, 2005, cache here.

Will the Stadium boondoggle overshadow the real work the legislature needs to do? Stay tuned.