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Twins and Vikings Stadium Q and A 10/14/2006: Nick Coleman, Mpls Star-Tribune 04/18/2006: Nick Coleman, Mpls Star-Tribune
House and Senate Final Passage -- How they voted 05/15/2006: John Marty, DFL-Roseville 04/22/2006: Nick Coleman, Mpls Star-Tribune
5/3/2007: Nick Coleman, Mpls Star-Tribune 04/25/2006: Nick Coleman, Mpls Star-Tribune Hennepin and Anoka County Boards -- How they voted
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“Publicly funded sports stadiums are like crack cocaine to local politicians and business bigwigs. These folks are just like addicts: They deceive everyone around them for the sake of a fix and rarely take no for an answer when voters decline to subsidize their schemes.” -- Michael W. Lynch, Reason Magazine.


The Minnesota Twins sued to get out of their lease so they can pressure your lawmakers to buy them a stadium. The new lease presumably would be as worthless as the one they just nullified.

Meanwhile, the disenfranchised citizens -- who will not be allowed to vote on it -- are stuck paying the tab.


The stadium will cost taxpayers $1.1 billion dollars.

“Meanwhile, a recent Star Tribune Minnesota Poll found strong public opposition to the stadium tax, which is estimated to collect $1.1 billion over 30 years.” Source: Star Tribune ("Bid For Stadium Referendum Loses ", May 17, 2005)

The Twins essentially contribute nothing. Oh sure, they will tell you the Twins are contributing $125 million. But the deal also gives them naming rights for the stadium, money from concessions, parking -- so the $125 million will be easily recovered.

“While Twins officials, who have pledged $125 million toward the stadium, insist that a referendum would delay the stadium's construction and raise costs, there are strong indications that the proposal might not survive a countywide vote. A Minnesota Poll two weeks ago showed that 58 percent of respondents who lived in Hennepin County opposed the stadium plan and that 71 percent believed there should be a referendum on the accompanying sales tax increase.” Source: Star Tribune ("Stadium Plan is calling for a first", May 16, 2005)


You can bank on it.

Taxpayers pay 100% of any cost overruns. The Twins have indicated that they will not pay one dime over the $125 million already pledged.

“The past year of delay means the cost of a new stadium has risen $30 million. Pohlad's people say he will not cover that cost, and the politicians say they won't either. Guess who gets stuck with the tab? That's right: Us Bobbleheads.” Source: Star Tribune ("Advice to Twins: Play Ball With Taxpayers ", February 7, 2006)

The facility will be open air (remember that next time it snows in May). Unlike the Metrodome, it has no roof. They aren't telling you this, but as soon as your lawmakers agree to build them this open air version of the stadium, the Twins plan to ask you to pay for a roof.

So the costs -- already at $1.1 billion -- can and will skyrocket from there. $1.1 billion is the floor -- there is no ceiling. There is nothing in the current agreement that caps the costs that taxpayers will have to pay.


Quite the contrary. Buying the Twins a stadium sets a precident for even bigger spending schemes..

In addition to the Vikings and Gophers, the Timberwolves have indicated that they too want taxpayer help for their suddenly outdated arena:

Target Center, which opened for the expansion Timberwolves in 1990, is the seventh-oldest arena in the NBA. Other buildings of the same vintage have been replaced or renovated, or hopes and plans are on the drawing boards for their demise.

Since opening as an innovative arena, Target Center has fallen behind more modern buildings that have larger, open concourses, more inviting and trendy food options, and thousands of upscale "club" seats.

Said Born: "If there's regional funding, we wouldn't want this building left out of the equation." ("Target Center: Adequate or Antiquated?" -- Minneapolis Star Tribune, April 24, 2006)

The Mall of America too wants a piece of the cash pie:

"Never known for thinking small, developers of the Bloomington megamall are asking state legislators for about $200 million in public financing to help fund the facility's $1.4 billion expansion. This is on top of $108 million the mall's developers have received in tax breaks since the shopping center opened in 1992." ("Megamall asking for Megamillions " -- Minneapolis Star Tribune, May 02, 2006)

To politicians you are an endless, bottomless well of money that they can go back to again and again. Get ready, Minnesota! This is just the beginning.


There are many other reasons that make this plan less than desirable.

Unlike the Metrodome, the Twins get 100% of all the money from concerts and shows that will take place at the new stadium.

Unlike the Metrodome, the new stadium will be located in a high crime area of town.

Unlike the Metrodome, the new stadium will not be located anywhere near the light rail line. Part of the reason given for building the Hiawatha line was that it provided a convenient method for sports fans to get to the Metrodome.

Unlike the Metrodome, the new stadium will be located next to the Hennepin County garbage burning plant.

According to one local blogger, the new stadium deal stinks -- literally.


Proponents of publicly funded stadiums are fond of saying: “We don't let people vote on other spending issues, so why let them vote on this one?"

Because it's the law, that's why. The law is really quite clear: cities and counties cannot raise taxes without a vote of the people:

Minnesota Statute Annotated 297A.99: - Local Sales Taxes, requires a referendum be held when any local sales tax increase is proposed. Subdivision 3(a) of this law specifically states: “Imposition of a local sales tax is subject to approval by voters of the political subdivision at a general election.”

The bill would impose a massive $1.1 billion tax on the citizens of Hennepin County. The tax will remain for the next 30 years. The law says they cannot do it -- not without a referendum.

The Twins want your state legislators to bypass the law and give Hennepin County an exemption. The Twins specifically stipulated that if there is a referendum then there is no deal.

So what good is the law, if our lawmakers decide they don't need to follow it?


Some groups put forth bogus “voters guides” supposedly proving that the majority of citizens are actually FOR a stadium. One would ask these folks then, if a majority of people are for it, then why not vote? What are you afraid of?

Some supporters hysterically scream: “But there's no time to vote!” They put forth phony “deadlines” and say that if the Twins do not get a stadium by such and such date, the Twins will leave town, contract, spontaneously combust, etc. The trouble with these threats is they lack credibility -- they have been putting out the same desperate pleas for 10 years now. If the Twins wanted there to be a vote, it would have happened by now.

You may remember this news item:

“State politicians in Minnesota are trying to figure out a plan to finance a stadium and keep the Twins from moving to North Carolina. Twins owner Carl Pohlad says he wants to keep the Twins in Minnesota, but he has signed a letter of intent to sell the team to a North Carolina group if the state's taxpayers can't come up with a plan to build a new stadium. If Minnesota doesn't come up with a plan by Nov. 30, the Twins are gone. They would likely be called the North Carolina Blue Sox after their move.” (source: USA Today, “Inside Baseball”, 11/08/1997)

Or maybe you remember this:

“The Minnesota Twins are threatening a move to Mexico City unless the locals cough up $400 million for a retractable-roof baseball facility.” (Source: Reason Magazine, 6/23/1997)

That was nine years ago! But the threats and the deadlines and the attempts at blackmail continue. In all of those years, the Twins certainly had time to request a referendum. But they never have. Why?

The reason they are afraid to follow the law and let people vote is because they know it won't pass. The people don't want it.

Every poll conducted in the last 10 years says: No tax money for professional sports stadiums. In 1995, a Minnesota Poll showed that 70% opposed using tax money for a stadium. The same poll conducted in 2005 -- after years of threats and public debate -- showed the exact same 70% opposed to using public tax money for a stadium without a referendum.

One has to ask: What part of “NO” don't they understand?

The pro-stadium lawmakers argue it doesn't matter what the people want or don't want.

“Rep. Neil Peterson (R-Bloomington) argued that sometimes it is important for elected officials to act regardless of public sentiment.” Source: Star Tribune ("Bid For Stadium Referendum Loses ", May 17, 2005)

Doesn't the idea of representative democracy mean following the directives of the people who elected you?

Even liberal columnist Nick Coleman wonders: Why are the Twins so afraid of the voters?

“Letting the people vote is the only way this might work. Try it, Carl. Declaring that you have no intention of leaving, even if a court says you can, would be very helpful, too. We grew up that way, Carl: Play ball with us, and we'll play ball with you. If the Twins aren't happy staying in the Metrodome while we work this thing out and get the voters into the deal, if the Twins play a heavy hand and threaten to leave the Dome, here's a suggestion: Give them the boot.” Source: Star Tribune ("Advice to Twins: Play Ball With Taxpayers ", February 7, 2006)


No, actually they don't. The money a stadium brings in is more than offset by the crippling costs.

Proponents of forcing taxpayers to fund sports stadiums often argue that owner enrichment is merely incidental to increased regional economic activity and tax collections. But, according to this Cato Institute study, the tiny benefit is not nearly worth it.

ABC's John Stossel argues that it is just plain wrong to build palaces for rich people. His article also includes “the broken window theory” -- the idea that spending money recklessly will always benefit someone, but that does not mean it is a wise investment.

The Star Tribune's Jay Weiner studied the economic realities of publicly funded sports stadiums and discovered the price far exceeds the economic benefits.

A pair of Kentucky sports economists have attempted to measure the “civic pride” benefits of pro sports by asking residents how much they would be willing to spend to lure a team there. They expected “really big numbers”, but instead discovered that “nobody was willing to pay anywhere near what cities were routinely spending on stadiums and arenas.”

But the most comprehensive study conducted is by Coates and Humphreys. Their study of 37 metropolitan areas with professional sports concludes that stadiums benefit the teams, not the public.

It is revealing that while some sports writers keep putting forward the revitalization myth, the Twins have quietly dropped the economic argument.


You bet. In Seattle, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, and Phoenix, voters actually defeated referendums to build new taxpayer funded stadiums, but lawmakers went ahead and built them anyway.

In Wisconsin in particular, an ill-will remains. The citizens continue to be embittered that their voice was not heard.

Owners (and legislators) are currently battling stubborn taxpayers in at least eight cities -- Washington D.C., Miami, New York, San Diego, Indianapolis, Anaheim, Kansas City.... and Minneapolis.


The official position of the Republican Party of Minnesota as expressed in their party platform states that they are opposed to ANY tax money going to fund professional sports stadiums:

“We support maintaining the principle that sports, entertainment, and the arts should be funded by users and voluntary donors, and not by tax dollars.”

The DFL party has never made taxpayer funded stadiums a priority. The party platform is silent on the issue, but the idea of taking tax money from “the little people” and using it for the enrichment of millionaires and billionaires would seem -- at the very least -- extremely inconsistent with their general “soak the rich and give it to the poor” agenda.


Legislators who apparently have little regard for the will of the people.

On this page you will find a complete list of every state legislator and every county commissioner who has voted for a Twins or Vikings stadium and AGAINST A REFERENDUM. Let them know how you feel and that you plan to hold them accountable.

• Here is how the MN House of Representatives Voted
• Here is how the MN Senate Voted
• Here is how the Hennepin and Anoka County Commissoners Voted

Remember in November.


Taxpayers League of Minnesota provides eight reasons to oppose a publicly funded stadium.
Field of Schemes - lots of news about stadium boondoggles around the country.
Eden Prairie businessman, Tony Spadafora thinks he has come up with an economical way to fund all three stadiums with private money.
North Star Liberty - a local conservative blogger opposed to stadiums without referendums.
Lloydletta's Nooz - a local liberal blogger opposed to stadiums without referendums.
Taxpayers against an Anoka County Vikings Stadium - a grassroots group of citizens opposed to raising county taxes without a referendum.


The bill gives Hennepin County permission to raise its sales tax to build the stadium in downtown Minneapolis for the Minnesota Twins. The bill lifts a state requirement that the local tax hike be approved by voters.

May 21, 2006 (HF 2480)
The House voted 71-61 to support the conference committee report on the Twins stadium.
NOTE: A vote FOR the bill means the legislator DOES NOT want a referendum.
Legislator Party District Vote  
Jim Abeler Republican 48B AGAINST  
Ron Abrams Republican 43B AGAINST  
Bruce Anderson Republican 19A AGAINST  
Irv Anderson Democrat 03A DID NOT VOTE (NOTE:Voted FOR the initial bill)
Joe Atkins Democrat 39B FOR  
Michael Beard Republican 35A FOR  
Connie Bernardy Democrat 51B AGAINST  
Greg Blaine Republican 12B FOR  
Fran Bradley Republican 29B FOR  
Laura Brod Republican 25A FOR  
Mark Buesgens Republican 35B AGAINST  
Lyndon Carlson Democrat 45B AGAINST  
Mike Charron Republican 56A FOR  
Karen Clark Democrat 61A AGAINST  
Tony Cornish Republican 24B AGAINST  
Ray Cox Republican 25B FOR  
Lloyd Cybart Republican 37A AGAINST  
Gregory M. Davids Republican 31B FOR  
Jim Davnie Democrat 62A AGAINST  
Matt Dean Republican 52B AGAINST  
Chris DeLaForest Republican 49A AGAINST  
Randy Demmer Republican 29A FOR  
Jerry Dempsey Republican 28A FOR  
David Dill Democrat 06A FOR  
Dan Dorman Republican 27A FOR  
John Dorn Democrat 23B FOR  
Rob Eastlund Republican 17A FOR  
Kent Eken Democrat 02A AGAINST  
Keith Ellison Democrat 58B AGAINST  
Tom Emmer Republican 19B AGAINST  
Matt Entenza Democrat 64A FOR  
Ron Erhardt Republican 41A AGAINST  
Sondra Erickson Republican 16A AGAINST  
Brad Finstad Republican 21B FOR  
Patti Fritz Democrat 26B FOR  
Pat Garofalo Republican 36B FOR  
Paul Gazelka Republican 12A FOR  
Barbara Goodwin Democrat 50A AGAINST  
Mindy Greiling Democrat 54A AGAINST  
Bob Gunther Republican 24A FOR  
Tom Hackbarth Republican 48A AGAINST  
Rod Hamilton Republican 22B FOR  
Rick Hansen Democrat 39A AGAINST  
Alice Hausman Democrat 66B AGAINST  
Larry Haws Democrat 15B FOR  
Bud Heidgerken Republican 13A FOR  
Debra Hilstrom Democrat 46B FOR  
Bill Hilty Democrat 08A AGAINST  
Mary Liz Holberg Republican 36A AGAINST  
Joe Hoppe Republican 34B FOR  
Frank Hornstein Democrat 60B AGAINST  
Melissa Hortman Democrat 47B FOR  
Larry Hosch Democrat 14B FOR  
Larry Howes Republican 04B AGAINST  
Thomas Huntley Democrat 07A AGAINST  
Mike Jaros Democrat 07B AGAINST  
Jeff Johnson Republican 43A AGAINST  
Ruth Johnson Democrat 23A FOR  
Sheldon Johnson Democrat 67B AGAINST  
Al Juhnke Democrat 13B FOR  
Phyllis Kahn Democrat 59B AGAINST  
Margaret Anderson Kelliher Democrat 60A FOR  
Karen Klinzing Republican 56B AGAINST  
Jim Knoblach Republican 15A AGAINST  
Lyle Koenen Democrat 20B FOR  
Paul Kohls Republican 34A AGAINST  
Philip Krinkie Republican 53A AGAINST  
Morrie Lanning Republican 09A FOR  
Dan Larson Democrat 63B FOR  
Ron Latz Democrat 44B FOR  
Ann Lenczewski Democrat 40B AGAINST  
John Lesch Democrat 66A FOR  
Tina Liebling Democrat 30A AGAINST  
Bernard Lieder Democrat 01B FOR  
Leon Lillie Democrat 55A FOR  
Diane Loeffler Democrat 59A AGAINST  
Doug Magnus Republican 22A FOR  
Tim Mahoney Democrat 67A FOR  
Carlos Mariani Democrat 65B AGAINST  
Paul Marquart Democrat 09B FOR  
Denny McNamara Republican 57B FOR  
Doug Meslow Republican 53B FOR  
Frank Moe Democrat 04A FOR  
Joe Mullery Democrat 58A AGAINST  
Mary Murphy Democrat 06B AGAINST  
Michael Nelson Democrat 46A FOR  
Peter Nelson Republican 17B FOR  
Scott Newman Republican 18A AGAINST  
Bud Nornes Republican 10A FOR  
Mark Olson Republican 16B AGAINST  
Mary Ellen Otremba Democrat 11B AGAINST  
Dennis Ozment Republican 37B FOR  
Erik Paulsen Republican 42B AGAINST  
Michael Paymar Democrat 64B AGAINST  
Gene Pelowski, Jr. Democrat 31A FOR  
Maxine Penas Republican 01A FOR  
Joyce Peppin Republican 32A AGAINST  
Aaron Peterson Democrat 20A FOR  
Neil W. Peterson Republican 41B FOR  
Sandra Peterson Democrat 45A AGAINST  
Jeanne Poppe Democrat 27B FOR  
Duke Powell Republican 40A AGAINST  
Tom Rukavina Democrat 05A FOR  
Connie Ruth Republican 26A FOR  
Maria Ruud Democrat 42A AGAINST  
Brita Sailer Democrat 02B AGAINST  
Char Samuelson Republican 50B FOR  
Bev Scalze Democrat 54B FOR  
Marty Seifert Republican 21A AGAINST  
Anthony Sertich Democrat 05B FOR  
Dan Severson Republican 14A FOR  
Katie Sieben Democrat 57A FOR  
Steve Simon Democrat 44A FOR  
Dean Simpson Republican 10B FOR  
Nora Slawik Democrat 55B FOR  
Steve Smith Republican 33A AGAINST  
Judy Soderstrom Republican 08B AGAINST  
Loren Solberg Democrat 03B FOR  
Steve Sviggum Republican 28B FOR  
Barb Sykora Republican 33B FOR  
Cy Thao Democrat 65A FOR  
Paul Thissen Democrat 63A FOR  
Kathy Tingelstad Republican 49B FOR  
Dean Urdahl Republican 18B FOR  
Ray Vandeveer Republican 52A AGAINST  
Jean Wagenius Democrat 62B AGAINST  
Neva Walker Democrat 61B AGAINST  
Lynn Wardlow Republican 38B FOR  
Andy Welti Democrat 30B AGAINST  
Andrew Westerberg Republican 51A FOR  
Torrey Westrom Republican 11A AGAINST  
Tim Wilkin Republican 38A AGAINST  
Kurt Zellers Republican 32B AGAINST  

May 21, 2006 (HF 2480)
The Minnesota Senate voted 34-32 to support the conference committee report on the Twins stadium.
NOTE: A vote FOR the bill means the legislator DOES NOT want a referendum.

Ellen R. Anderson Democrat 66 AGAINST
Michele M. Bachmann Republican 52 AGAINST
Thomas M. Bakk Democrat 6 AGAINST
William V. Belanger Republican 40 AGAINST
Linda Berglin Democrat 61 AGAINST
Don Betzold Democrat 51 AGAINST
Terri Bonoff Democrat 43 FOR
Satveer Chaudhary Democrat 50 AGAINST
Tarryl Clark Democrat 15 FOR
Richard J. Cohen Democrat 64 AGAINST
Dick Day Republican 26 FOR
D. Scott Dibble Democrat 60 AGAINST
Steve Dille Republican 18 FOR
Michelle L. Fischbach Republican 14 FOR
Leo T. Foley Democrat 47 FOR
Dennis R. Frederickson Republican 21 FOR
Chris Gerlach Republican 37 AGAINST
David Hann Republican 42 AGAINST
Linda Higgins Democrat 58 FOR
John C. Hottinger Democrat 23 FOR
Dean E. Johnson Democrat 13 FOR
Debbie J. Johnson Republican 49 AGAINST
Michael J. Jungbauer Republican 48 AGAINST
Steve Kelley Democrat 44 FOR
Bob Kierlin Republican 31 FOR
Sheila M. Kiscaden Democrat 30 FOR
Amy Koch Republican 19 AGAINST
Paul E. Koering Republican 12 FOR
Gary W. Kubly Democrat 20 FOR
Keith Langseth Democrat 9 FOR
Cal Larson Republican 10 FOR
Brian LeClair Republican 56 AGAINST
Warren Limmer Republican 32 AGAINST
Becky Lourey Democrat 8 AGAINST
Sharon Marko Democrat 57 FOR
John Marty Democrat 54 AGAINST
Mike McGinn Republican 38 FOR
James P. Metzen Democrat 39 FOR
Geoff Michel Republican 41 AGAINST
Mee Moua Democrat 67 AGAINST
Steve Murphy Democrat 28 FOR
Thomas M. Neuville Republican 25 FOR
Sean R. Nienow Republican 17 AGAINST
Gen Olson Republican 33 AGAINST
Julianne E. Ortman Republican 34 AGAINST
Sandra L. Pappas Democrat 65 AGAINST
Lawrence J. Pogemiller Democrat 59 AGAINST
Jane B. Ranum Democrat 63 AGAINST
Mady Reiter Republican 53 AGAINST
Ann H. Rest Democrat 45 AGAINST
Claire A. Robling Republican 35 AGAINST
Julie A. Rosen Republican 24 FOR
Carrie L. Ruud Republican 4 FOR
Dallas C. Sams Democrat 11 AGAINST
Tom Saxhaug Democrat 3 FOR
Linda Scheid Democrat 46 FOR
David H. Senjem Republican 29 AGAINST
Rod Skoe Democrat 2 FOR
Wesley J. Skoglund Democrat 62 FOR
Yvonne Prettner Solon Democrat 7 AGAINST
Dan Sparks Democrat 27 FOR
LeRoy A. Stumpf Democrat 1 FOR
David J. Tomassoni Democrat 5 FOR
Jim Vickerman Democrat 22 FOR
Betsy L. Wergin Republican 16 AGAINST
Charles W. Wiger Democrat 55 FOR

The following article is reprinted from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Thursday, May 3, 2007

Ballpark Boys batting .000 on good public policy
By Nick Coleman, Star Tribune

Due to heroic efforts by the Ball Boys on the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners, the remaining obstacles to a new Minnesota Twins baseball stadium are being crushed as if they were mere matchsticks. Or taxpayers.

I'm still not a fan.

As I have said repeatedly to fend off accusations from 16-year-olds that I am an un-American lickspittle, I want the Twins to stay in Minnesota, where I have watched them since I was a lad. But I don't like the way this deal was rammed through, or the way it relies on a tax that the voters were deprived of a chance to approve or reject.

More than that, I'm still not convinced the new park has a better design than the old.

The Twins say the closest seat to home plate will be 45 feet away, while it's 46 at the Metrodome. But without knowing how far away the cheap seats are, or how high above the field, we can't know whether most patrons will have a better vantage than they do in the Dome.

We can be sure of this:

With 40,000 seats, the new park will have 28 percent fewer seats than the Metrodome. And tickets will cost far more than we suppose, especially now that the Legislature -- that champion of the little people -- is poised to legalize scalping.

"Hey, Buddy. You and the kids wanna sit behind first base? That'll be $400. Or I tell you what, just give me the kids."

But the County Ball Boys are working hard for Carl Pohlad.

On Tuesday, the county wrote a check for almost $14 million -- it's always nice to have a little cash on hand -- to pay for land where the new Twins baseball park is expected to open in three years.

It was a gift, from you to professional baseball (Thank you!), just part of half a billion (when you include interest) taxpayers have been assigned to shoulder on behalf of the Pohlad family business plan.

The very day we extended that helping hand, it was learned that Twins owner Carl Pohlad and sons paid $6 million to buy J.B. Hudson Jewelers, the upscale bling-bling shop where Minnesotans go to gaze at engagement rings before they get real about their budget.

As I say, it's good to have cash on hand. And diamonds.

The Pohlads may be required to kick some more money into the county pot if a judge decides that the present owners of the 8-acre stadium site should be paid more. But how much the Pohlads might pay is not known because the County Ball Boys don't want to say. What a mockery of representative government has been made by these guys, who voted 4-3 against the girls to approve the stadium deal last summer.

First, they did an end-run around a law requiring a referendum to approve the sales tax increase that will cover the public's cost. Now, they have pushed the county into a secret deal with the Twins, and refused to make it public.

By coincidence, on the day before the county wrote a $14 million check to help buy the ballpark site, the state of Minnesota brought a garden hose to bear on the conflagration that is north Minneapolis.

Nearly 1,000 homes in north Minneapolis were foreclosed last year, and the rate is skyrocketing this year, adding to the troubles in a part of town where affordable housing is in short supply, hundreds of homes are vacant or boarded, street murders are frightening the citizens and public schools are closing for lack of interest. You can make a case that north Minneapolis should be declared a disaster zone that urgently needs a united effort from state, city and county governments.

Instead, the state lent the city $11 million to revive some foreclosed homes in a feeble effort to stop the downward spiral of a historic community whose collapse, if it is allowed, will cause calamity.

The next day, the taxpayers were sent to the plate for the Pohlads, who added bling-bling to their empire.

Don't tell me we don't know our priorities in Minnesota.


The following article is reprinted from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Saturday, October 14, 2006

Stadium-loving politicians deserve a cold November
Nick Coleman, Star Tribune

Now that the Twins have been bounced from the playoffs, it is time to pay tribute to the Metrodome and to rain down retribution on the heads of the politicians who decided to replace it by putting a $1 billion burden on the backs of taxpayers.

First, the Dome: The temperature was 33 degrees outside at 7 p.m. Wednesday when the Twins might have been hosting the Tigers in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series (if the Twins hadn't lost the first round to Oakland). And there were 23-mile-per-hour gusts from Fargo, N.D. Inside the Dome, it was 70 degrees. Outdoors, at the site of Pohlad Palace, scheduled to open in 2010 to the elements and the fumes from the garbage burner, it would have been freezing, and fragrant.

I received some nasty mail during the Twins' brief postseason run, telling me I had no right to root for the Twins (I've been watching them since I was 10) or to write about them, because I have been a critic of the scandalous shenanigans that went into last spring's stadium vote by the Legislature.

Well, I do not believe that a fan has to leave his brain at the gate. So perhaps a stadium refresher course is due.

The highly choreographed stadium campaign ended in a victory for big money. Despite shadow-puppet opposition from some who voted no because they knew their votes weren't needed, the Legislature allowed the Hennepin County Board to fund the new stadium with sales-tax revenues, but without putting it to a vote of the public, as previously had been required.

This was a dive that was bigger than Torii Hunter's belly flop during Game 2 against Oakland, when he rolled around like Sparky the Seal while the A's ran around the bases.

The fix was in.

At the end of August -- just before voters returned from vacation -- the Hennepin County Board decided, boys against the girls (4-3), to seal the deal, ordering a county that can barely pay for the necessities to issue 30-year bonds for a half-billion-dollar ballpark.

That half-billion, after interest, will cost the public a billion. The cost to confidence in our system of government might be bigger than that.

To see what should have happened if democracy had been permitted to run its course, you only have to look to Anoka County, where a citizen uprising has brought a similar boondoggle -- a stadium proposed by the Minnesota Vikings -- to a standstill.

All year long, as it began to sink in that Anoka County was planning to do an end-run around the referendum law, a chorus of taxpayer voices and City Council resolutions has demanded that voters be given a say on the plan. Last week, even the City Council in Blaine -- where the stadium would be built -- joined in, demanding a referendum on the tax subsidy for Zygi Wilf, and a number of candidates for the county board are seeking such a vote.

"They've wakened the sleeping giant," says Mary Capra, the mayor of Centerville, who was one of the first local leaders to stand up to the stadium blitz. "This has been a real education in how important it is to watch the Legislature."

Are Hennepin County residents lesser citizens? No. If they had had longer to think about what was happening, it's hard to believe some kind of groundswell would not have forestalled a stadium for the Twins. In the end, we still might have gotten a ballpark. But it would have been a better deal for the taxpayers, with a more meaningful contribution from Minnesota's second-richest man, Carl Pohlad. That would have been a good thing.

By the way, a rally sponsored by Citizens Against Stadium Taxes will be held today from 2 to 6 p.m. at Stub & Herb's, 227 Oak St. SE., near the University of Minnesota campus. To learn more, and to find out how your legislator voted on the stadium, visit

If you're still reading, Mr. Pohlad, I want to assure you that I still love my Twins, which were "mine" long before they were "yours." I am happy to hear you are keeping Torii Hunter for another season. But please do the fans a favor:

Get his eyesight checked.


Reprinted from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Monday, May 15, 2006

Stadium lobbying isolates politicians from reality
By John Marty

Two recent polls show that there are different realities in Minnesota stadium politics:

AT THE CAPITOL, Governor Pawlenty and many legislators have made stadium funding a top priority. Most legislators sincerely believe that a majority of their constituents support the stadium subsidies.

Legislators of both parties are now proudly describing stadium funding, along with the bonding bill and eminent domain legislation as the main priorities they plan to accomplish this session.

AROUND MINNESOTA, people oppose using taxpayer money to pay for any professional sports stadium by more than two-to-one (65% - 30%, according to a May 11 poll for KSTP by SurveyUSA.) While more people thought the Twins needed a new stadium than the Vikings or Gophers, it was still only 35% of the public that thought they needed one, according to a May 14 Star Tribune/Minnesota Poll. And, when asked about paying for it, 68% of the public opposed the use of public money, with 59% of them STRONGLY opposed (Minnesota Poll.) Despite years of expensive advertising and PR campaigns on behalf of public subsidies, the voters remain strongly opposed.

Why is the "reality" at the capitol so far removed from the attitudes of the public? After a decade of intensive lobbying, PR efforts, and campaign contributions by team owners and their lobbyists, the Governor and legislative leaders have come to believe in a new reality.

These political leaders are living in a bubble in which they end up talking to lobbyists for the team owners and their allies more than to their constituents.

Furthermore, these legislators believe the "astroturf" (phony "grassroots") lobbying campaign organized by highly-paid consultants and PR firms actually reflects public opinion.

These public officials are so confident they are doing what the public wants that they dismiss the two new polls as unbelievable. Politicians who are usually eager to do what polls show to be popular, reject these polls because they don't mesh with their "reality."

Legislators from greater Minnesota have been persuaded by the stadium lobby that the vast majority of their constituents support the subsidy bills because it is not their constituents that will be stuck with the taxes for a stadium, but people in other communities. Yet the KSTP/SurveyUSA poll shows that people outside of the metro area oppose the taxpayer subsidies just as people in the metro area do. It doesn't occur to these lawmakers that their constituents understand the unfairness of the tax and don't think their fellow citizens in Hennepin or Anoka county should be stuck with it either.

Likewise, the stadium lobby has persuaded many politicians that the dreaded stadium issue will go away if they give in and provide the subsidies demanded. These politicians don't realize that as soon as these stadiums are funded, new demands will crop up. They don't see the writing on the wall about the Timberwolves stadium wishes when team owner Glen Taylor tells the Star Tribune, "I was in politics... the last thing we need is [a Target Center funding debate] NOW."

In previous years, the Governor and legislators understood that these taxpayer subsidies were unpopular with the public, so public officials claimed that they did not consider stadiums to be a priority, only an option that would be nice to do. Now, Governor Pawlenty and legislative leaders have given up any pretense of that, and will freely admit that although the state won't be doing anything significant to address our education or healthcare or transportation needs this session, they want to make sure we fund at least two stadiums.

To the credit of Minnesota voters, they have held fast to their principled opposition to stadium subsidies despite the expensive stadium PR campaigns. Nevertheless, the stadium lobby has shown that with enough money, they can persuade many sports fans that taxpayer subsidies are important, even though they are designed primarily to bring more money into team owners' pockets.

Through their well-funded efforts, the stadium lobby has generated many calls and emails to legislators demanding action. And, using campaign contributions and a bus-load of lobbyists, they have made stadium subsidies not only an issue, but a priority, at the capitol.

John Marty is a DFL Senator from Roseville.

Reprinted from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Saturday, April 25, 2006

Democracy is getting nuked in ballpark push
By Nick Coleman, Star Tribune

What if the Legislature passes a law to make Hennepin County residents pay for a nuclear power plant in Minnetonka? What if legislators from Minnetonka and Hennepin County oppose the plan, but are outnumbered by lawmakers from the other 86 counties who want nuclear power without having to pay for the plant? And what if the governor (who was elected on an anti-nuke platform) signs the bill? What do we call that?

Representative democracy? Corporate government? Or just plain tyranny?

You make the call.

No, nuclear power is not at issue in the Legislature this week. But the fundamental fairness of the legislative process is definitely in question. Despite the opposition of lawmakers from Minneapolis and Hennepin County, the Legislature is on the verge of passing a plan for a new baseball stadium that profits a private monopoly (according to Forbes magazine, Carl Pohlad's Twins, purchased for $38 million in 1984, are now worth $216 million) and overrides a law requiring voter approval (passed to prevent exactly this kind of abuse).

Last week, the House Taxes Committee voted 15-13 in favor of a stadium, without a referendum to seek Hennepin County voter approval for the nearly $1 billion in county taxes that will be imposed over 30 years. All six county legislators on that committee voted against the plan. This week, the House Ways and Means Committee voted 18-16 to gag the voters, with seven of the 10 Hennepin County legislators voting no.

If the county that will be taxed says no, how can the plan proceed?

Because the parliament in the former Soviet Socialist Republic of Kazakhstan is a model of democracy compared to our Legislature.

I repeat for the understanding-impaired: I love the Twins, and I'm in favor of a beautiful new park, someday. But the plan before us is a travesty. A relentless money campaign has subverted the democratic process and bypassed safeguards set up to protect a public that has been cut out of the deal -- but is being taxed a billion.

What we are watching is a power grab in which wealth talks and democracy walks. According to Sen. John Marty, the Pohlad family has contributed $200,000 to lawmakers (of both parties) in the past five years, and the bucks have paid off: The Legislature is rolling over, subsidizing private interests with tax dollars and making a mockery of the law giving voters the final say.

This is a bipartisan sellout. Eight of the 15 stadium votes on the Taxes Committee came from DFLers, some of whom had pledged not to approve public financing of a stadium without a voter referendum. And Gov. Tim (No New Taxes) Pawlenty, a Republican, has signaled his approval, allowing a long-term tax load of $2,000 per family to be placed on Hennepin's voters without giving them a chance to vote.

The pols say if we don't like it, we can pay them back next election. OK. I'll keep a list.

But first, here is the phone number for the governor's office: 651-296-3391. Call it.

The way this sham works, there is no point in calling your legislator: The Hennepin County ones are already "against" it, while the rest shrug their shoulders and say it's no big deal to the people of Koochiching County (not much is, really).

Twins Win. Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge. But Minnesota loses something precious.

Bring democracy to Iraq? In the words of Merle Haggard's new song, "America First":

"Why don't we liberate these United States? We're the ones who need it the worst."

Reprinted from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Saturday, April 22, 2006

Stadium proponents missed a chance to listen at hearing
By Nick Coleman, Star Tribune

Wally the Beer Man was in the hallway, handing out free Minnesota Twins caps that had tags on them certifying that they were "GENUINE MERCHANDISE" from Major League Baseball.

Not in my book.

The free hats that were given to hundreds of people who attended Thursday night's public hearing on the $522 million Twins stadium were not made in the USA. They were made in Vietnam. You didn't expect much for nothing, did you?

The hearing by the House Taxes Committee at Oak Grove Middle School in Bloomington was a cynical farce. And so is whatever's left of public participation in government.

Seven hundred or more people came to the five-hour hearing and a clear majority -- I would estimate two-thirds of the crowd -- came to oppose the plan. Not because they hate baseball or apple pie. But because they want to keep state government and the Hennepin County Board from perverting the democratic process by jamming a billion-dollar subsidy for a billionaire (after interest costs are included) past the voters, flouting the state law that calls for a referendum.

They will need pitchforks and torches next time.

The hearing was billed as a chance for opponents to speak. But the stadium big hitters squawked to demand equal time -- as if their hired guns and mouthpieces haven't dominated this rotten process from the beginning. And so the school corridors were lined with lobbyists and Twins employees. Everyone from Tony Oliva to TC (the Hamm's Bear lookalike Twins mascot) was there, passing out hats and buttons that said, "Build It."

The Twins were the home team and stadium opponents were treated like visitors from Chicago, dumped on by ballpark supporters who acted like bleacher bums. There was booing, there was jeering, there were catcalls.

If there had been beer, it might have been poured on the meter readers, the schoolteachers, the nurses and the retirees who had the guts to speak their mind and were foolish enough to think they might get listened to.

After several hours, most of the opponents had gone home. When they were safely departed, the Taxes Committee staged a brief pageant of democracy and voted 15 to 13 to let the heist continue without the inconvenience of a public vote on the county sales-tax increase that will fund the stadium.

It was a sham, and it was shameful.

But the bleacher bums loved it and knew they would win. They gave a standing ovation to Oliva -- the former Twins great and a native of Cuba -- as the pro-stadium portion of the hearing began. If he were a no-name Latino who showed up at the State Capitol for an immigration hearing, he would have been required to show his citizenship papers before speaking. I'm in the ranks of those who think he should be in the Hall of Fame. Because of his bat, not his usefulness to his bosses.

"I come from Cuba," Oliva told the legislators, some of whom had smirked during the citizen testimony but were now properly reverential. "Taxes for me are no big thing."

There you have it, sports fans. Things are so upside down that our officials are laughing as they thumb their noses at the voters and the law and rubber-stamp huge giveaways on the advice of exiles from a Communist paradise where taxes are "no big thing."

The big cigars are getting their way, and the biggest of them all would approve.

Maybe Tony O can get Fidel Castro to throw the first pitch.

Reprinted from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Stadium deal is about democracy . . . then baseball
By Nick Coleman, Star Tribune

It's amazing what a relentless propaganda campaign can accomplish. Especially one funded with millions from the deep pockets of those who benefit.

Today, with the exhausted opposition to welfare for billionaires collapsing, we are on the verge of gutting the law in order to put up a palace for the Minnesota Twins, opening the door to billions more for sports while everything we used to hold dear -- public education, public safety, public health -- goes down the toilet.

"Bonfire of the Vanities" has finally come to Minnesota, 19 years after Tom Wolfe's portrait of New York City as a place where wealth and privilege, racism and greed ruled.

Trends take awhile to reach us. But we're tragically hip now.

The Hennepin County Board predictably voted 4-3 Tuesday to shoulder a $522 million stadium for the Twins. Counting the interest on decades of payments, it will cost county taxpayers $1 billion.

Don't bore me with propaganda about the tax amounting to only three cents on each $20. A billion dollars is not trivial.

It is an enormous commitment that speaks volumes about our priorities, will cost each man, woman and child hundreds of dollars, transfer substantial wealth from the poorest to the wealthiest, and produce -- study after study has documented this truth -- no discernible public economic benefit.

We are on a bender of historic proportions, partying while our house rots, the kids go hungry and our savings are squandered. Billions for stadiums after years of slashing spending on everything that matters.

To repeat just one example: Investing the taxpayer costs of a Twins stadium in pre-K education to prepare every at-risk child in Hennepin County for school would keep them out of jail later and reap multiple rewards in public safety and economic development. To waste that much money on a stadium that will only have a quarter of its costs paid by the private business that benefits from it does nothing for the public and does only this: It gives us a chance to wave World Series hankies once (based on past performance) every 15 years.

A county facing $40 million in human services cuts has no business subsidizing Pohlads.

"This is a taxpayer heist," said Commissioner Linda Koblick, who was one of three board members who tried to hold onto the public's wallet Tuesday.

But this is worse than a bad decision. It is terrible policy. The county is in cahoots with state leaders in attempting to circumvent a state law requiring an increase in local sales taxes to be approved by voters.

This provision is not a suggestion. It is the law. By ignoring it, the county and the Legislature are sending a message: We will do whatever it takes to jam this thing down your throat, without regard to your opinion. Or the law.

I love baseball. But I love democracy more. And right now, democracy is behind, and the big cigars are bringing in their closer.

They are so close they can taste it. The county has green-lighted a public boondoggle and the Legislature is on the brink of sealing the deal by cutting voters out of the action.

This is outrageous.

Today, there is a hearing at the Capitol and guys in suits who charge hundreds per hour will be well represented. Your chance is Thursday night, when the House Taxes Committee holds a public hearing at 6 p.m. at Oak Grove Middle School, 1300 W. 106th St., in Bloomington.

It's the bottom of the ninth. If you are going to go down, it is best to go down swinging.


Hennepin County Board Members voting for a 30 year, $1.1 billion Twins Stadium tax (with no public referendum as required by law):

• Mike Opat (District 1)
• Mark Stenglein (District 2),
• Peter McLaughlin (District 4),
• Randy Johnson (District 5)

Hennepin County Board Members who believe in the law letting the voters decide:

• Gail Dorfman (District 3)
• Linda Koblick (District 6)
• Penny Steele (District 7)

Anoka County Commissioners voting for a $1 billion Vikings Stadium tax (with no public referendum as required by law):
Margaret Langfeld, chair (District 3), Dennis Berg, vice-chair (District 1), Dick Lang (District 2), Jim Kordiak (District 4), Scott LeDoux (District 5) and Dan Erhart (District 7)

Anoka County Commissioners who believe in following the law and letting the voters decide:
Rhonda Sivarajah (District 6)


VIKINGS OFFER $30 MILLION LESS FOR STADIUM -- Zygi Wilf is offering to pay $250 million for a new stadium. That's $30 million less than they offered Anoka County. But the total price tag is $1 billion -- guess who he wants to pay for the rest of it?

VIKINGS PROPOSE DOMED STADIUM . . . to replace a domed stadium. The problem is: No one knows how it will be financed. According to the latest Survey USA poll, 7 in 10 Minnesotans oppose using public funds for a new Vikings stadium.

TWINS STADIUM AND EMINENT DOMAIN -- Contrary to earlier reports, Hennepin County has already begun eminent domain proceedings in an effort to confiscate land from citizens at below market value.

SPORTS SPENDING OUT OF CONTROL -- For you sports fans who think the owners have finally gotten their lavish spending under control, meet pitcher Barry Zito and his new $18 million per year contract. There is no way the Minnesota Twins -- even with a $1.1 billion taxpayer-funded stadium -- will be able to compete with that kind of cash. After 2007, Johann Santana -- a better pitcher than Zito and a two-time Cy Young award winner -- will surely leave the Twins.

“THE ECONOMICS OF BIG-TIME SPORTS STINK” -- That's quite an admission from Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin. But he voted to force you to pay for a new Twins Stadium anyway. Matt Abe rounds up some of the angry reaction to the vote.

NO REFERENDUM -- Despite overwhelming public opposition, The Twins stadium tax has passed. Those voting FOR the tax also voted AGAINST your right to vote on a referendum. See the final MN Senate/House roll call here.

MINNESOTANS DON'T WANT A STADIUM -- According to the latest Minnesota poll, Minnesotans say the Twins do not need a new stadium (56-35%) and should not get public money for one (68-29%), the Vikings don't need a new stadium (63-27%) and shouldn't get public money for one (73-25%); and that even the Gophers don't need a new stadium (54-34%) and shouldn't get public money for one (56-41%). In the Minnesota Republican party, resolutions opposing the Twins stadium passed 7 of the 8 congressional districts.

VOTERS? WE DON'T NEED NO STINKIN' VOTERS -- Twins stadium backer Rep. Steve Swiggum told the Pioneer Press that a majority of Minnesotans might well oppose the Twins bill, but "that's where leadership comes in." Personally, we prefer the original quote.

BOUGHT AND PAID FOR -- Twins owner Carl Pohlad and his family have donated over $750,000 over the years to Minnesota politicians. Meanwhile, Matt Abe reports that the rank and file are refusing to fall into line. Mark Stotz has some thoughts about a party that says it "opposes taxes" but voted for this bill. Craig Westover warns that Republicans who use the "only 3 cents of $20" argument have no right to complain when the DFL wants only 10 cents of that same $20.

STADIUM VOTE MAP -- David Kirchner provides a very revealing map showing how outstate legislators eagerly stuck it to Hennepin County taxpayers on the Twins deal.

ALL STAR GAMES FOR EVERYONE! -- Baseball commissioner Bud Selig (a former used car salesman) is using promises of All Star Games as enticement for cities reluctant to build taxpayer financed baseball stadiums.

AW C'MON, BUILD IT FOR KIRBY! -- The award for the most tasteless pitch for a new taxpayer funded baseball stadium (with NO VOTER REFERENDUM) goes to.... former Twins pitcher Jack Morris

THE NAME GAME -- The new $700 million stadium in Indianapolis will be called Lucas Oil Stadium. Even though the stadium is being paid for almost entirely with public tax dollars, the naming rights fee -- estimated at around $120 million -- will go entirely to the Indianapolis Colts.

PRO-SPORTS AND EMINENT DOMAIN -- The Indianapolis Colts are fighting proposed changes to Indiana's eminent domain law. They want put up a parking lot and -- darn it -- a pesky property owner stands in their way.

SOMETIMES YOU GET THE TRUTH -- Senator Marty and Rep. Krinke propose that since taxpayers are paying 75% of the cost of a new Twins stadium, they ought to get 75% of the new profits as well. Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat responds with this tantrum:

"In a perfect world, their scheme might work, but baseball doesn't operate in a perfect world, and it never will. The purpose of a stadium is to generate revenues so the team can be competitive."

So there you have it, sports fans! A new Twins stadium isn't about revitalizing downtown Minneapolis or giving fans a chance to watch baseball outdoors or any of the other bogus reasons that are usually offered. It's to give Carl Pohlad more money. At least the honesty is refreshing.

IS CARL POHLAD A GENIUS? -- If he gets taxpayers to foot the lion's share of the costs of a new stadium, the Twins owner will be getting one of the sweetest deals in baseball history.

FORMER FOES NOW AGREE -- Both John Knight and Linda Koblick fought a bitter battle against each other for the Hennepin County board in 2002. But both now agree: A new Twins ballpark is a BAD DEAL for taxpayers. Matt over at North Star Liberty has the details.

SEVENTY PERCENT OPPOSE STADIUM -- A poll asked visitors to the MN State Fair if they would welcome a special session to force taxpayers to fund a new Twins stadium. Their answer: No way!

OOOH . . . SHINY! -- The price tag -- now $1.5 billion -- continues to grow. The Vikings owner has unveiled his long awaited stadium plan. It includes a complex of offices, retail space, restaurants, a hotel, housing, a medical facility -- and, oh yes -- a stadium!

LOVE BOAT -- A new group has been formed to oppose the proposed Anoka County stadium tax and they are requesting your help. And a public hearing in Anoka County drew hundreds of stadium tax opponents. Apparently they aren't swayed by the proposed new Vikings slogan: "You buy us a stadium, we'll water your lawn for free".

VIKINGS CRUISE NIGHTMARE -- Star Tribune columnist Nick Coleman reports a waitress from Al and Almas still suffers nightmares from the Vikings' Sex Cruise. Mitch Berg suggests that if his daughter had been harassed in this way, a lawsuit would be the least of the Vikings' troubles.

BACK TO THE TROUGH? -- Mitch Berg smacks down part-time Republican Arne Carlson's call for a special session to force Minnesota taxpayers to buy new stadiums for the Gophers, Twins, Vikings.....

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