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Friday, February 10, 2006

Update on the Stadium Boondoggle

Minneapolis Issues posters are hopping mad over the Stadium Boondoggle. I started a thread on the topic earlier this week, and the thread has been going all week. Other threads are here, here, and here.

Don Shelby from WCCO should be applauded for his common sense:

Amelia Santaniello:

Minnesota's Stadium Game is well beyond extra innings. Ballpark plans just keep
striking out. And now the Twins could move from the Metrodome next year. So Don
is here with a thought about how the latest stadium play is playing out

Don Shelby:

I should begin by saying that I take no position on whether the Twins should
get a new stadium. But the process doesn't make any sense to me.

The Hennepin County Commission has voted to raise taxes for a stadium, but no
county sales tax can be raised without the state legislature's approval. Here's
the goofy part. If a state legislator from Biwabik, or Winona or Marshall casts
the deciding vote to build or scuttle the stadium, Hennepin County voters
who disagree can't vote against them in the next election.

It doesn't seem right to me. If a stadium is approved or disapproved on the
vote of a legislator, who doesn't have any skin in the game, and is then immune
from the retribution of the voters, either way, seems to turn the notion of
representative democracy on its head.

Brad Finstad in Elbo Lake deserves brickbats. He sent out a press release to his area newspapers trumpetting the value of sticking it to Hennepin County Taxpayers for the twins stadium.

Last session, I sponsored a bill that would allow Hennepin County to raise its sales tax in order to build a stadium in Minneapolis. Its county commissioners basically stepped up and said 'we want the stadium' and all the economic benefits that area bars, restaurants and hotels could receive from it.

Actually it was a close - 4-3 - vote on this. Commissioner Stenglein had a conflict of interest on this.

In layman's terms, the Hennepin County sales tax increase would cost three cents for every $20 spent. And if you never shopped in Minneapolis or its Hennepin County suburbs, you would never contribute a dime towards the new stadium. If cost projections rose, the difference would be made up by either Hennepin County or Twins owner Carl Pohlad - not by Minnesota taxpayers.

The Twins stadium bill was bogged down in committee at the end of last year. And because a special session was not called near the end of the year, the stadium agreement negotiated between the Twins and Hennepin County expired.

I am confident of two things. First, I believe the Twins and Hennepin County can reach a similar deal again, and that once this bill reaches the floor in the Minnesota House of Representatives it will be approved. Secondly, I am convinced that if we don't take advantage of this second chance there is a very real chance we could lose the Minnesota Twins.

This is the best stadium proposal we are ever going to see. If Hennepin County wants to raise taxes on its citizens because they view a stadium as an economic development package, why should lawmakers stand in the way? You can suggest that Pohlad pay for the building himself, but if that were an option, it would have happened long ago. If keeping the Twins in Minnesota is important to you, contact your lawmakers and tell them to support this initiative.

We have the rare second chance to end the Twins stadium debate once and for all - while holding state taxpayers harmless. It is my hope that we will finally take action, as opposed to committing another error by leaving this proposal on the bench.

A Lloydletta reader sent me a copy of his email to Rep. Finstad:

Representative Finstad

I grew up in Elbow Lake, Minnesota, and still read the Grant County Herald. I have lived in Minneapolis since 1988.

The Grant County Herald published your press release about a Hennepin County Twins stadium in its February 8th issue.

It is beyond the realm of decency for outstate legislators to carry the water on metro-area stadium legislation, because it is a 'safe vote' for them. Shame on you.

By law, a sales tax increase in Hennepin County can only be approved by a referendum. This proposal that Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat negotiated last spring specifically requires that the sales tax be approved by the board, without a referendum. With constitutional amendment fever sweeping the state this year, why not 'let the people decide' on this topic, especially if the law requires it? Let's put a sales tax increase that directly benefits private business owners up for a popular vote in Hennepin County, and see what happens.

I need to clarify your understanding on two key points:

Roughly one fourth of Minnesota citizens live in Hennepin County, so your statement about about 'holding state taxpayers harmless' is not quite true.

When you say the Hennepin County commissioners 'stepped up' and said 'we want the stadium', here's what really happened. After much debate, 4 of the 7 commissioners voted to send this request to the Legislature. Of the 4 who supported the resolution, one was in the middle of an election to be mayor of Minneapolis, and he loaded up with resolution with plenty of progressive pork on its way out the door. Another of the votes of support came from a commissioner who maybe should have abstained from voting, due to relationships with the owners of the proposed stadium site.

To have 4 people approve increased sales taxes for the next 30 years that will directly affect one fourth of the citizens of Minnesota is neither ethical, fair, or legal.

Nobody in the Minnesota House or Senate should be proposing or supporting this pork without a referendum. I urge you to not sponsor the bill.

You can email Brad Finstad at:

His home and business numbers are:

(507) 354-4431
Business: (507) 381-6575

Call him at reasonable hours to express your opinion.