Tom Dennis of The Grand Forks Herald Drinks Purple Kool-Aid #wilfare

Tom Dennis of the Grand Folks Herald has penned one of the the weakest arguments in favor of Vikings stadium Wilfare that I’ve seen written in an actual newspaper. He attempts to make a “sure, stadiums are economic losers, but money isn’t everything” argument, but uses examples that show otherwise. For example, he looks at Green Bay:

So, what can explain Green Bay’s support of Lambeau Field, home of the Packers? Why did Brown County, Wis., voters agree to a half-cent sales-tax increase in 2000 to pay for a $300 million renovation? Why did more than 100,000 new shareholders agree to buy $200-a-share stock — stock that doesn’t pay dividends, offers no season-ticket advantages and can’t rise in value — to raise more than $20 million for the renovation? Why is a similar stock sale that’s going on right now expected to raise $60 million more for another renovation?

The answer is obvious: Money isn’t everything. Green Bay derives enormous pleasure from the Packers, so much so that residents not only tax themselves but also donate (via buying “stock”) huge sums to the team.

No. Money isn’t everything, but there are some glaring differences between how Green Bay has continued to fund renovations to Lambeau Field and how Zygi Wilf is attempting to extract wealth from our community.

1. Green Bay fans willingly buy “stock” that they know has no value. It’s a $200 piece of pride in their team that they’re willing to provide. Vikings fans have not offered to do this. It’s not the public’s job to make up for the lack of financial support shown by Vikings fans compared to Packers fans.

2. The tax paid by Brown County residents to help fund stadium renovations was – get this – put to a vote! And it passed! As we know from recent polls, there is nearly no chance that a state-wide vote, a Minneapolis city charter vote, or a Ramsey County vote to increase taxes for Zygi Wilf’s benefit would pass. In fact, it would likely go down in flames since Minnesotans know that Zygi doesn’t need our money, and the state, City of Minneapolis, and Ramsey County all have much larger priorities than subsidizing an NFL franchise.

And, again, if fans aren’t willing to pay their own money to “save” their team, why should the general public make up the difference?

Dennis goes on:

In other words, it’s not the politicians in this case, it’s the voters who are “begging” to give the team “hundreds of millions of dollars.”

“Begging” to spend other people’s money is not a sign of support. Spending one’s own money is a sign of support. If the Vikings are only valuable enough to fans to “save” them by spending other people’s money, they must not be that valuable to fans. One can see why. Even hardcore Vikings fans must realize that it’s ridiculous for the public to subsidize every Vikings game ticket with $44 of the public’s money.

Dennis again:

The benefits those voters derive may be abstract — that is, not measurable in dollars and cents.

No. You can measure the value of those abstract benefits. That’s what prices do. If you asked fans if they would be willing to spend $44 more per ticket per game for the next three decades, they’d say no (some would say yes, but you’d need EVERYONE to say no to have the money Wilf is demanding). If you asked fans if they would be willing to write checks for $10,000 per seat to buy Personal Seat Licenses, the answer would be no. Which goes to show that the benefits do not match the costs. Which is not a problem the public needs to solve. It’s a problem that Zygi Wilf, the NFL, and Vikings fans should address.

Dennis again:

So, why on Earth hasn’t a Legislature dominated by conservative Republicans laughed in Zygi Wilf’s face? Why is there any talk whatsoever of a deal, let alone one that would demand $150 million from Minneapolis and $398 million from the state?

Because Minnesotans — in the opinion of their duly-elected lawmakers — enjoy pro sports teams enough to pay for them, even without the promise of economic profit or a guaranteed return.

No. They. Don’t. If Vikings fans enjoyed pro sports teams enough to pay for them, the legislature wouldn’t need to be involved. Wilf could just ask Vikings fans to buy fake stock, or he could jack up ticket prices as far as he needs to hit his personal profitability goals. Fans are unwilling to pay. Fans and non-fans alike agree that spending the public’s money on this is not justifiable. But, people opposed to spending the public’s money on a stadium do not have a team of lobbyists at the capital working to convince lawmakers to do the wrong thing.

13 thoughts on “Tom Dennis of The Grand Forks Herald Drinks Purple Kool-Aid #wilfare”

  1. @Ed. You are right in that GreenBay did pull this off with fans contributing most of the money. GB is a llttle different situation in that the city is small and its identity is all based around the Packers and infectious cheesehead culture. GB is also owned by the public and, as I understand, the NFL detests this form of ownership and will never permit it to repeat.

    GB also did a great job of mustering fan support. I think you need to step forward and conceptualize what might have happened there if the town ever lost the Packers and project it to the MN situation.

    We have not even gotten close to passionate arguments for public subsidies yet. Just wait until your “let’s the fans and Wilf work it out” concept becomes closer to reality and the community sees real fear of the team leaving.

    And the Vikings haven’t pulled out the big guns yet either. The image of Bud Grant is coming to your TV screen to make a case for preserving the Vikes. They also could use popular player opinion to trickle into the public landscape (Kluwe type) and there are thousands of people in the area who never read beyond the sports page and find players opinions to be credible. We are a long way from the real emotion here.

    I think you are dead wrong in ignoring the non-monetary aspects of this debate. You will be eaten alive if you keep up that argument.

    You are right about lobbying influencing the process. I suspect that most legislators would prefer that they don’t have to vote. They hope it goes away. No matter how this turns out, the politicians will have a number of very upset supporters. Neither party decisively wins on any outcome.

    The lobbying effort of the MIGA group is also influencing the process and this might be pushing the acceptance of public subsidy more than it should. The Mystic Lake tribe members are multimillionaires by decree of the Perpich administration and, at the same time, the White Earth Tribe is still relatively poor.

    So far, the MIGA lobby has kept Dayton from embracing anything other than Pull tabs. I have no idea if the White Earth proposal has legs, but they really came up with an innovative proposal to redistribute bettors money from Mystic Lake and share it with another tribe and the state.

  2. @Rick

    I think you are dead wrong in ignoring the monetary aspects of this debate. You will be eaten alive if you keep up that argument.

  3. The NFL is past peak in entertainment value for the dollar cost, and youth football is entering a crisis period due to increasing legal liability for concussion syndrome (besides a moral issue, but I know better than engage football fans on moral grounds). Both of those make football stadium building a horrible investment.

    You already know my thoughts about America, the depression, austerity, and the piss-poor leadership of the ruling class, so I’ll spare you that repeat.

    However, those ‘superfans’ who plan to cry out in anguish at any politicians if they oppose building a billion dollar public tax doondoggle for a private businessman from out of state…need to talk to their taxpaying mothers and fathers before they go voting.

    BUT IF the ruling class caves in and this white horny stadium is unavoidable and must be built on the backs of weary middle-class tazpayers, here are 3 conditions that must be added to the deal–

    1–A State Bank of Minnesota needs to be created (following the model of the successful State Bank of ND) to manage all the MN taxpaying bond funding dollars…to keep the money from flowing to and from the NYC banksters profit-takers and Wall Street fee-makers. Keep all the MN money in MN.

    2–All MN taxpayer funding should be done pay-as-you-go to the construction and vendor companies building the stadium, not financed at all or paid in advance pre-construction. That way little or no taxpayer funding is subjected to rapacious financing, less financing = less interest expense tacked onto the cost to taxpayers.
    —–If that means not enough money is available up-front–too bad. Let Zygi and the NFL front load their contribution in exchange for the way they screw the communities with their 30 year lease for a 40 year debt load…those bastards got their money, let them frontload it into the stadium game earlier in exchange for their 40 years of guaranteed (on taxpayer’s back) income.

    3–All construction and stadium jobs shall be given to MN owned and based construction companies, and workers must be paid union wage/benefit rates.

    If those terms are unacceptable…then so is this whole stadium deal; which if shoved through somehow, then stay tuned to The Deets here (with Ed’s kind permission of course) for the terms of the non-violent taxpayers revolt.

  4. @brad.
    Oh you must mean the financial hole in Rybak’s current proposal of $55 million, which some Minneapolis taxpayers will have to swallow. And Rybak still wants to include improvements to the Target center so that venue can host megabuck pop concerts that suck money out of the state. Is that the “monetary” aspect that worries you?

  5. @ other mike
    You are apparently an expert on public financing and I don’t feel qualified to comment on your sophisticated bonding structures.

    Ed should be commenting, but due to some mysterious reason he doesn’t seem to be paying attention to your posts.

  6. Jeez Rick, why don’t you just admit you didn’t bother to read my comment. Instead you just undermined your response to Brad (regarding city taxpaying finance proposals) by saying you “don’t feel qualified to comment” on my financing comment, which was more about taxpaying finance proposals and next to nothing to do with “sophisticated bonding structures” that you reference.

    Once again (this is the 3rd thread), your inconsistent arguments make it hard to follow you.

  7. @Rick

    The Vikings stadium is a waste of money. End of story. It comes nowhere near being fiscally sound. The chasm between what the public is willing to give and what the Wilfs want is too large right now.

  8. @ Brad From a point of being “fiscally sound” you are absolutely right.

    From a point of being a “waste of money”, you might not get much agreement from the civic leaders of almost all other cities that have NFL teams. And I suppose some Vikings fans might think State funding of Opera is a “waste.” It depends on whose shoes you are in.

    I suspect you are right in that the money gap between the public’s willingness to support and what the Wilf’s want is quite large. It’s certainly much bigger than can be solved by Ed’s seat licensing solution.

    We are not done here by a long shot. It is worth noting that the governor and mayor of Mpls. and many legislators don’t seem to think this is a wasted effort. (And, as I understand, a legislator from Red Wing is asking the Treasure Island tribe what they can do to help out in funding a stadium. )

    FYI— “fiscally sound” projects are the not only ones that pass political benchmarks. There are plenty of public projects that enjoy broad support and make little fiscal sense. Have you ever visited the mall in Washington DC?

  9. The politicians are just trying to do their jobs, which is to put issues into a public forum for people to weigh in on. When people came back LATER and vote them out of office in pretend outrage, what they are really doing is admitting they were NOT the aware citizens in a timely manner (that those Jeffersonian types like to talk about, but in real time like to ignore the issues and pretend someone else will be aware for them and magically represent them while they watch sports on TV and form-fit their couch.

    So, here is what we get for society–

    And then we want to blame say RT Rybak or Tony Bennett AFTER the barn is emptied by the NFL and our once MN tax dollars are being spent in NYC.

    Shall I blame schools for not teaching Civics class better? Or people for not paying attention at all.

    The old saying is ‘it is a bad carpenter that blames his tools’ and the politicians are tools, and either we the people use them, or the NFL/Zygi will…it is your choice–the NFL/Zygi have made their choices known.

  10. @RickThere is a big difference between a $25 million subsidy for the Guthrie and a $700 billion subsidy for the Vikings. The difference per ticket subsidy for the Twins and Vikings is quite large.

    I have heard that Lester Bagley “merely wants the same treatment that the Twins received” I would be more than willing to do that, but in fact he is asking for a magnitude of charity much larger than the Twins.

    Would RT Rybak like to see the state pour $300 million into the city? Yes he would. Would governor Dayton like to the legislature come up $300+ million to pay for a large construction project? Yes. I just do not see where the money will come from and who is going to vote for it at this time. The current legislature extols small government and low taxes, I do not think they will give up their identity so Zygi can get rich.

  11. @Brad
    Good luck if you think you can predict how the legislature is going to act. The last time they met in 2011, big bills were cooked up into hundreds (perhaps thousands) of pages of documentation agreed to only by Dayton and the GOP leadership. Rank and file members voted without ever seeing what they were approving.

    The legislature always works in non-visible committee meetings and it prioritizes arcane parlimentary procedure. There usually is damn little transparency to the voters until the bill has already passed. Most of the reporters who used to have time to look at legislative action don’t have a paying job anymore.

    FYI. Where do you get your information or belief that the legislature will not approve a stadium subsidy??? Sen. Baak said late last week that he has about 12 DFL votes in hand to approve. If there are legislators who are against this, they are very invisible except for Sen. John Marty.

    While there might be some GOP members who claim to be small government TeaParty types, they are not in the current leadership in any significant number. I think that the GOP always has been pro-business and pro-commerce and they mainly seem to object to excess government spending for social programs.

    You might be completely off-base how you view them when it comes to legislation that helps private business. A new stadium helps a long list of folks who happily contribute to legislators campaigns.

  12. @Rick, Sen. Bakk also said in that same announcement that he wouldn’t have that many votes if the stadium funding mechanism in the bill was gambling.

    As I understand it, not one senator or house member from Minneapolis or St. Paul supports Vikings stadium Wilfare. The ones representing me have made this clear to me. They don’t need to be vocally opposed to oppose it.

  13. @Ed. Yup. And Baak also said that Rybak’s idea to sweep in a subsidy for the Target center would jeopardize even more votes.

    Whether or not your representatives vote one way or the other is likely irrelevant. Remember when the legislature agreed to the Twins stadium deal with a increase in an unpopular sales tax that never went to referendum?? The House vote to approve was something like 76 to 55. The Senate vote was quite close but if Baak is right that he has 12 DFL votes to approve–it will take 15 GOP Senators to vote no. The GOP controls the votes and Dayton is likely to go ahead with a subsidy.

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