MN Senate’s Discussion of Violating the Minneapolis City Charter for a Vikings Stadium #wilfare

Back on May 8th, the Minnesota Senate passed the Vikings stadium bill during a marathon session where dozens of amendments were proposed in order to fix the poorly negotiated bill. One of the changes to the bill that received a lot of debate was an amendment Sen. John Marty (DFL) added to the bill which stated that MN would not violate any local charters as part of the bill. This was a good deal for Minneapolis taxpayers since it protects taxpayers from spending more than $10 million without a vote as the city charter requires.

But, Sen. Carla Nelson from Rochester (R) later proposed an amendment to Marty’s amendment to basically undo the language Marty proposed (and was voted into the bill).

That led to an interesting debate over whether the state should force Minneapolis to spend sales taxes raised in Minneapolis on a Vikings stadium.

Sen. Nienow argued against bypassing the city charter:

“You’re telling the people of Minneapolis that your voice doesn’t matter. We don’t care what you said with your referendum. That silly little voter that you took doesn’t mean anything. And, we’re going to vacate it. That’s what this amendment does, members. This is a horrible amendment. Please vote it down.”

Sen. Marty, in addition to pointing out that Sen. Nelson’s amendment strips out the language Marty had previously managed to get into the bill to protect Minneapolis taxpayers, explained the ridiculousness of Minneapolis City Council members asking the state to impose Vikings stadium financing upon the city so the city can spend money while being able to pass blame to the state:

The City Council says it’s not them that are imposing it. They’re coming to the Capital and asking us to impose it. And then they’re saying “we didn’t impose it so it’s not our spending.”

Senator Limmer points out that the state may impose local sales taxes, but it cannot do so without local approval.

We do not have the ability to impose a local options sales tax, for instance, without the public of that local subdivision approving it.

Senator Julie Rosen, the Vikings stadium bill author, took to the mic to mislead her colleagues about the terms of the Minneapolis charter:

We have to remember: a reason for a referendum is when there is an increase in taxes. There is no increase in taxes, members.

Rosen also calls the Minneapolis charter provision protecting taxpayers from spending more than $10 million on a pro sports stadium without a vote “antiquated”. That became law in 1997.

Rosen goes on to say that it’s smart that the state is forcing Minneapolis to spend the city’s money on a Vikings stadium rather than letting them spend it on “whatever they’d like to use it for”.

Senator Marty corrects Senator Rosen:

The Minneapolis charter provision that we’re talking about does not mention tax increases. It prohibits spending $10 million or more on pro sports facilities.

Marty goes on to clarify that Senator Nelson’s amendment to Marty’s amendment would strip out the language that respects the Minneapolis City Charter.

Senator Nienow steps back to the mic to clarify that Senator Nelson’s amendment would override the city charter:

This tells voters “you don’t matter. Your voice doesn’t matter.” This antiquated provision is younger than the Metrodome. “You didn’t have enough smarts to index it for inflation. You know what? That may have been their intent.

Make no mistake. If you vote for this amendment, you’re telling the residents of Minneapolis that their voice is irrelevant. That’s terrible.

After a few more rounds, Senator Nienow came back to the mic to once again tell members that the charter will be overridden if Senator Nelson’s amendment passes.

Let me read to you what will be removed if we adopt this amendment. “Any relevant provision or provisions must be followed and must not be preempted, overridden or waved.” That language will be removed.

If you vote for this amendment. You are voting to vacate the Minneapolis charter. You are voting to ignore the voice of the people. You’re saying “we know better than you. You weren’t smart enough to write your charter the right way. We need to vacate it for you. We need to take away those rules that you asked for. It’s inconvenient that it exists for us (never mind that you wanted it).” And that is just wrong.

Things get interesting at 1:50 into that clip when Senator Carla Nelson objects to how Sen. Nienow describes her attempt to wipe out Senator Marty’s “honor the charter” amendment.

In the end, Senator Nelson’s amendment to Senator Marty’s amendment passed, thus modifying the bill to override rather than respect the city charter. Why a Republican from Rochester would do that is beyond me, but that’s what Sen. Nelson accomplished.

Clearly, a vote by Minneapolis City Council members to approve the Vikings stadium bill is a vote to override the city’s charter. City Council members, who’ve been elected by voters, should respect the actions voters took when they voted overwhelmingly in favor of amending the city charter to require a referendum on pro sports stadium spending of $10 million or more.

9 thoughts on “MN Senate’s Discussion of Violating the Minneapolis City Charter for a Vikings Stadium #wilfare”

  1. It’s nice to see the Minneapolis state senators really going to bat for the city’s rules and ability to vote.

    Oh wait.

  2. Those memorable two nights, one for each legislative body of the state, were the only two nights allowed to truly debate and improve the deal–THE DEAL.

    Which then after the show was over, the amendments were tossed out. Black Wednesday morning, in a sad display of clear violation of the spirit of open governance laws, THE DEAL was reprinted before the meeting and handed to the conference committee so the actors could memorize their parts.

    Efficient…expedient…Kabuki theater.

    There were no negotiations with the state, the two parties at the table were the NFL and the stenographers.

    When democracy breaks down like this, where explicit open governance laws and city charters are sneakily bypassed, and the people’s will violated, what are the people supposed to do–
    –take out the lube and bend over
    –vote out the acting politicians
    –whine in their over-taxed beers
    –and pay taxes to publicly subsidize a stadium while the incomes all flow to the private extractive NFL.

    There is no need to accept this as inevitable–
    –Build it and they will come…shall be replaced with–
    –Build it and we will leave.

    There are better options–
    –find better things to do with our lives and dwindling resources
    –vacate the over-taxed districts
    –boycott the NFL extractors and their chamber of commerce enablers.

    There is no need to build a bunker, just stop using anything that supports this monstrosity…and let the rubes who make these poor decisions pay as much as humanly possible their own way. We often hear people say–don’t tell me the problems, tell me your solutions–well here it is.

    If we displace even 20% of our spending in the over-taxed hospitality area, what are the chances the visiting rubes will fill that in? For me, that means lunch will be a Arcadia Cafe or Pizza Nea instead of Crooked Pint or Grumpys-Downtown…simple enough, eh?

  3. Unfortunately, Mike, my understanding is the stadium tax affects the WHOLE CITY of Minneapolis. I would gladly avoid downtown, but alas, Uptown, NE, everywhere will have to pay!!!

  4. @Andrea & The Other Mike, the financing plan uses a 0.5% city-wide sales tax along with a series of significantly higher taxes on downtown dining, alcohol, entertainment, and hotel spending. 3% on restaurants and beer in downtown, 7-Corners, and St. Anthony Main restaurants is an example of that.

  5. Welcome to what Santa Clara has gone through with the 49ers. Now Minneapolis residents will know what it feels like to have an NFL team’s interests be the focus of your city council majority, rather than the needs of the people.
    Here in Santa Clara, we have a city charter with a requirement for competitive bids when public funds are used. It would take a 2/3 majority vote to override the charter – something the 49ers wanted to do because they wanted to keep their already hand-picked contractors. Polling was done on whether or not Santa Clarans would support a charter override- results never made public. Lo and behold the 49ers went to our state capitol, Sacramento, with our pro-stadium council members (recipients of campaign donations from the 49ers owners, contractors, and unions) and the building and trades union (which later would receive large stadium contracts) to override our city charter requirement for competitive bidding. The result was special interest legislation written just for the 49ers, allowing them to bypass our city charter. We think this is unconstitutional – to take away Santa Clarans right to vote – but it’s big money against the taxpayers, and the taxpayers lose.
    I hope the Minneapolis city council comes to its senses and says the charter override is unacceptable.

  6. “For me, that means lunch will be a Arcadia Cafe or Pizza Nea instead of Crooked Pint or Grumpys-Downtown…simple enough, eh?”==== Or, you could pack a lunch. I imagine if enough restaurant dining enthusiasts tried this example of misdirected anger of, it could affect health of the latter businesses and the people who work there. However, don’t think they need to worry. But, on the main, boycotts of any type usually affect the people who can least afford to be affected.

  7. Again, let me point out, this is a debate about good governance, not about stadiums. This is related to the economic problems in Greece and all the PIIGS where their govts unwisely took on debt on the promises of development…and then the bubble burst and only the debt remained.

    This is how it goes when the promise is based on an entertainment bubble and not any tangible production…this is banking 101, but we have seen bankers have turned into speculators instead of bankers. So where are the wise leaders who will stop this senselessness before a billion dollars of overbuilding occurs?

    It appears nowhere…the herd of lemmings continues to the cliff.

  8. Tom has it a little wrong.

    The public side of the stadium financing in Santa Clara will continue to be out for bid, the side privately financed will be part of a design build process which actually was the recommendation of the majority of the members of the charter review committee. There is no provision in the city chater in Santa Clara for voter approval for stadium financing or construction. Indeed, the matter was approved for an advisory vote for the stadium in Santa Clara.

    Here is a provision of SB 43 analysis which was approved by the Legislature

    i among other requirements, a ballot measure
    endorsing the development of a stadium suitable for use professionalfootball team is approved by voters in a citywide election, the design-build contract does not require expenditures from the general fund

    actual section
    (A)  A ballot measure endorsing the development of a stadium suitablefor use by a professional football team is approved by voters in the City of Santa Clara in a citywide election.

    Indeed, the 49ers themselves created the need for a BINDING vote by a petition submitted to the voters, also beyond what the charter required.

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