Senator John Marty penned a letter to Minneapolis City Council members offering his perspective on why the current Vikings Stadium financing package is a bad deal for the city and state.
It includes some insights into how the City of Minneapolis lobbied the state to get the state to override the city’s charter regarding stadium spending.
How the city worked to bypass the City Charter against the wishes of city residents:
Several of you indicated that you would never vote to override the city charter provision that prohibits spending of more than $10 million in public funds for a professional sports stadium without a voter referendum.
Earlier this week, you received a written opinion from the city attorney spelling out why the legislation does not violate the charter. I am not a lawyer, but as a senator observing the heavy lobbying of Mayor Rybak and other city officials on the issue, it certainly looks like a cynical move to get around the provision in the city charter that voters overwhelmingly asked for back in 1997.
Mayor Rybak and Council President Johnson pulled together a stadium funding package, then came to the capitol and lobbied aggressively to get the state to adopt it. They asked the state to take your city’s future sales tax revenue and spend it on the Vikings stadium. They succeeded. The state will take the future revenue from your local sales taxes and use it to pay for the Vikings stadium.
Then, they turn around and tell the public that the charter does not apply – because it isn’t the city spending city money on it; it was the state taking city tax money and spending it.
That is disingenuous – kind of like the story of the man who killed his parents and then begged the court for mercy because he was an orphan – the mayor and council president begged the state to do this, and then they tell the public that the city didn’t have a choice because the state forced it on them.
Even so, they were concerned that the strong language of the charter might apply, so they lobbied to ensure that the final stadium legislation explicitly overruled the city charter. Again, they succeeded.
The city charter provision that your residents adopted back in 1997 was clear in its intent – the public doesn’t want their tax money spent to subsidize a professional sports stadium, and if you want to spend more than $10 million, you need voter approval.
The city is agreeing to support, not just $10 million, but $150 million in stadium construction costs, plus over $200 million more for operating costs, and forgoing hundreds of millions more in property taxes, shifting the burden to other taxpayers in Minneapolis.
The charter provision won’t apply to the Vikings stadium, not because it wasn’t meant to cover this, but because city leaders were very successful at teaming up with state politicians to do an end-run around it.