Three Minneapolis City Council members decided to run for mayor after casting votes for or against spending approximately $675 million over 30 years to cover a portion of construction (plus interest) and 30 years of maintenance costs to replace the Metrodome with a slightly larger facility that would remove land from the property tax base, increase competition with local bars/restaurants for entertainment dollars, and leave the convention center without a revenue source for future upgrades.
Two of those three candidates chose to vote against that bill: Gary Schiff and Betsy Hodges. Schiff has since dropped out of the race and threw his support behind Hodges. Don Samuels supported the Vikings stadium bill, and continues argue that spending $675 million to subsidize the NFL is justifiable because of the jobs created during the three year construction project.
Betsy Hodges on the Vikings Stadium
Betsy Hodges was interviewed about her stance on the stadium by MinnPost before the vote in February 2012. It’s worth a read. She put a lot of thought into why NFL welfare, in general, is a bad idea, and why this bill in particular was a bad bill. In bullet point form, here’s her take:
- Philosophically I don’t believe in public funding for private sports.
- If you take that the past is prelude, there is no guarantee that in the future if a stadium for the Vikings is built, that the residents of Minneapolis won’t be told by the state that they don’t want to be part of it anymore, so if you guys want to keep it, you should pay for it. And if you don’t, the Vikings are going to leave which is essentially what they’re doing now.
- [T]here was a referendum that passed in 1997 that changed our charter, that requires a vote if the city is going to spend more than $10 million on a public sports facility.
“So even if I didn’t have a philosophical objection to public funding, even if all of the questions were answered about the current funding plan, we’d still be left with the question of the people of Minneapolis, the vote they’ve taken and the vote they want to take in the future.
I believe that needs to be respected.
This, to me, is the language of someone who understands money, understands her role in government, and understands that there are better investments a city can make than subsidizing the most profitable sports league in the world.
To recap, it’s not the government’s job to subsidize private sports over everything else that the public tax dollars could be spent on (or not spent by government at all), the deal with the state is questionable, and city residents made it darn clear (they put it in the city’s charter) that they want to vote on sports subsidy plans that involve spending more than $10 million on public sports facilities. That, to me is a well reasoned justification for opposing the bill presented to the city council and was the right thing to do.
Mark Andrew on the Vikings Stadium
Here’s what Mark Andrew had to say about the Vikings stadium bill in April (this was when vocal Vikings stadium welfare opponent Gary Schiff was still in the race so he may have been talking about both Schiff and Hodges at the time):
As for the new Vikings stadium, Andrew said “any mayoral candidate who voted against the stadium was irresponsible.”
I’ve previously outlined 13 points on why this was a bad bill. Betsy Hodges makes a sound justification for her opposition (as did Gary Schiff, who supports Hodges). Can you honestly say that voting against funding something that didn’t need to be funded (especially not in any dire way in 2012) was irresponsible?
Andrew expanded on his “irresponsible” characterization:
“I will not preside over a hole in the ground. That will not happen on my watch,” he said.
That’s a ridiculous statement. The vote against the stadium financing bill presented to the city council was not a vote to finance a new stadium or tear down the Metrodome.
There was no hole in the ground.
There is no hole in the ground.
And, there wouldn’t be a hole in the ground if the vote had gone 7-6 rather than 6-7 in opposition. We have an existing stadium, with a new roof and turf, that’s hosted decades of NFL seasons, MLB seasons (including two world series wins), a few seasons of NBA basketball, decades of Gopher football, decades of college baseball, decades of monster truck rallies, decades of inline skating and running.
It’s a workhorse.
It’s paid for.
If money wasn’t an issue, could we build a better stadium than the Metrodome. Of course.
But, this issue comes down to whether spending other taxpayer dollars to subsidize the NFL, the Vikings, Vikings fans, and downtown businesses who are too cheap to spend their own money to invest in their own team or businesses is a good use of city tax dollars.
“However, the funding mechanism for the stadium was fatally flawed from the start, and I was not a Johnny-come-lately on that issue. I’ve been critical of the financing plan throughout the legislative process.”
Guess what? The city council was presented with a chance to vote on a “fatally flawed from the start” Vikings stadium funding mechanism. A funding mechanism that – while “fatally flawed from the start” – was somehow worthy of voting for in Mark Andrew’s world. If something’s “fatally flawed from the start” the responsible thing to do is to oppose it from the start and only support it once it’s not fatally flawed.
Additionally, I attended city council meetings and state legislative hearings on this issue and don’t remember seeing Mark Andrew at any of those events. While he may have been “critical of the financing plan throughout the legislative process” Google shows that he managed to avoid leaving a paper trail of his opposition. Isn’t that strange? I guess Mark Andrew was critical enough of the Vikings stadium financing plan to almost do something about it.
Honestly, I have a hard time following Mark Andrew’s reasoning on this issue. Apparently, it’s irresponsible to vote against a hole in the ground when there isn’t a hole in the ground, yet it’s not irresponsible to vote in favor of a “fatally flawed from the start” funding mechanism?
Who needs a straw-man argument when you can manufacture a hole in the ground argument?
The responsible thing to do in a situation like this is to take a deep breath, realize that there is no hole in the ground, and work toward a better financing scheme that year, the next year, etc.
This is what Betsy Hodges did.
Entertainment subsidies are not emergencies.
Still, Mark Andrew dug deeper:
Andrew said he is opposed to using gambling revenue to finance public projects.
If that’s the case. If Mark Andrew opposed using gambling revenue to finance public projects, why would he say that it’s irresponsible to vote against a bill that relied upon tens of millions of dollars per year in gambling revenue?
You can’t be opposed to exploiting gamblers for the benefit of the NFL while simultaneously calling city council members who were opposed to exploiting gamblers for the benefit of the NFL irresponsible. City council members Schiff and Hodges, when presented with the opportunity to vote on the Vikings subsidy bill with all of its flaws, proved that they were opposed to exploiting gamblers to subsidize the NFL with their votes.
Still, Andrew dug deeper:
Still, despite his reservations about the financial framework for the Vikings stadium, he said: “You can’t be for jobs and against the stadium.”
Actually, you can be for jobs and against the stadium because Minneapolis could employ people doing far more important work for city residents than tearing down an existing stadium to build a slightly larger one in its place.
Whenever I hear a corporate welfare project being sold as a jobs project I know that it’s a bad project. Nearly all government spending creates jobs. Let’s spend money creating the types of jobs that make our neighborhoods safer, our kids smarter, and our transportation more efficient. Subsidizing the NFL achieves none of those goals.
How Mark Andrew Justifies Bad Public Projects
It’s not just that Mark Andrew supports corporate welfare for the NFL that bothers me. It’s how and why he justifies this poor use of taxpayer dollars. When Mark Andrew says that it’s irresponsible to vote against the stadium while simultaneously claiming to oppose how it was funded, it’s hard to take the guy seriously. The question on the table on the Minneapolis City Council was whether they should vote to authorize $675 million in tax dollars over 30 years to pay for demolition of the Metrodome, construction of a larger stadium in its place, the removal of taxable land from the city’s tax rolls, and a significant chunk of ongoing stadium maintenance costs. Schiff and Hodges did the right thing, and Andrew chose to criticize them for doing so.
It’s worth noting that Andrew’s campaign has been endorsed by the Building Trades, who lied to Minneapolis residents during the Viking stadium corporate welfare campaign using push polls to garner support for Vikings stadium subsidies. Mark Andrew’s endorsements page verifies this, and also includes an endorsement from the head of the building trades, Dan McConnell (who’s also stated via Facebook profile photo that he’s planning to vote for Andrew).
In a nutshell, a union that’s willing to lie to extract tax dollars for corporate welfare construction projects supports Mark Andrew. Personally, I’d rather see those workers working on make Minneapolis a stronger and healthier city rather than subsidizing a family of New Jersey fraudsters.
If the ridiculously bad Vikings stadium financing bill is/was an important issue to you (or not), it’s clear to me that there are better choices in this race than Mark Andrew.
Betsy Hodges is the obvious choice. She voted against the poorly drafted bill and provided strong rationale for why that was the right thing to do.
What’s the Next Corporate Welfare Justified as a Jobs Bill Project?
If we look to the future, one question I have is, “What does Building Trades union plan to lobby for next, and why do they think Mark Andrew is the right guy to back for the corporate welfare that project will require?”
As I understand it, that project would be a huge convention center hotel built at taxpayer expense. That project will not improve the quality of our schools, the number of cops on the streets, the number of street lights in North Minneapolis, or fill more potholes. Yet, strangely, this is the kind of project the Building Trades would back, and their candidate of choice is very clear.
Again, if you’ve read this far, it’s not just the vote but the rationale used for or against that vote that explains why Betsy Hodges is the best choice for our next Minneapolis mayor.