Stadium deal may test Minneapolis charter
[Bob Greenberg] wrote the city charter amendment that now poses the greatest hurdle to supporters of a Vikings stadium in Minneapolis -- mandating a citywide vote on stadium subsidies of $10 million or more. Seventy percent of city voters approved that language in 1997 during talks of a new Twins ballpark, but it now faces its first real test as the Legislature considers a bill to ignore it altogether.
"I did not write this charter amendment to prevent the building of a stadium," said Greenberg, a former Twin Cities activist who moved into a woodland tent two years ago and lives off the land, including roadkill. "But only to force the city to put it before the voters."
The activists who fought for the referendum requirement have long parted ways, but now find themselves revisiting the passionate case they made for a public say in sports subsidies. Some are offended at what's going on. Others have changed their minds.
The three sentences in the Minneapolis charter have prompted a majority of the City Council to speak out against the latest stadium plan, which would bypass the referendum. When the referendum idea was born around a table in St. Paul 15 years ago, then-Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton wanted to dedicate $50 million to a new home for the Twins.
"I knew, as I said at those meetings, that they were going to get around it," said then-mayoral candidate and City Council Member Barbara Carlson, who supported the referendum requirement. But times change. Carlson now believes it was "a bad decision" and "referendums are insanity."
Mayor R.T. Rybak's latest proposal to fund a Vikings stadium in downtown Minneapolis would pay for the city's share of the facility by redirecting a group of sales taxes that currently pay for the convention center. That money becomes available when the convention center debt is paid in 2020. Stadium backers argue the sales taxes are state-authorized and therefore not city resources, an argument reflected in the stadium bill introduced Friday.
Greenberg knew any loopholes would be exploited, which was why he included a laundry list of funding options to spur a vote, including "sales tax or other taxes."
"I pulled my brains out [imagining] what is every single way that they could finance this? How could they find a way around this?"
Rybak has argued that his deal, which he says will lower property taxes by paying debt on Target Center, is a much more complicated package than what the referendum is meant to address. But Council Member Gary Schiff, who developed the idea with Greenberg, says voters still want a voice in this deal.Comment: The two flaws ... and they are major:
- Bypassing the City charter and bypassing the declared will of the people.
- Guessing at the amount of the funding source (the electronic pull tabs)