Thursday, July 27, 2006

It isn't really about baseball, and it ain't over yet

A letter from Brian Burke, president of the Navarre Distribution Services unit of Navarre Corporation, where Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka) worked as vice president of marketing, appeared in today's Sun Sailor newspaper:
Stadium vote is history

To the editor:

Over the past couple of months, I have continually heard and seen individuals attacking our local state senator for her vote on a new baseball stadium. As a lifelong Republican, I stepped across party lines during the last state Senate election to vote for Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka. What caused me to make this decision? Ultimately, while I historically don't make my vote based on one issue, I did during this past election. That one issue is the funding of a new baseball stadium for the Minnesota Twins.

I grew up attending baseball games at old County Stadium in Milwaukee and at Wrigley Field in Chicago. My father, now 70 years old, talks about attending baseball games at Wrigley Field with his friends. The memories of attending those games are something that my father and I will also cherish. I want to share these types of memories with my 3-year-old son. When is the last time you've heard someone say the same thing about the Metrodome?

Unfortunately, as with politics in today's environment, certain individuals can't move forward. There are many other things that now need attention. The stadium vote is done - let's move forward.

Brian Burke

As for "attacking" Senator Bonoff, I prefer to think of it as giving her the opportunity to defend being one of only five senators (all DFLers) representing Hennepin County to vote in favor of granting the county an exemption from the state law that would require it to hold a referendum before levying a $1.1 billion local option sales tax. Five Hennepin County DFL senators voted no, including Larry Pogemiller (DFL-Minneapolis) and Ann Rest (DFL-New Hope). Running on one's voting record is what incumbents must do, it's part of being accountable to the people who elected them. No wonder Bonoff's supporters are urging us to "move on," especially self-described single-issue voters like Burke.

As for memories of the Metrodome, I still reminisce about Kirby and Herbie at the Dome, waving a Homer Hanky, and those amazing ALCS games and World Series wins in 1987 and 1992. I think the last time I heard others recalling those cherished memories, from all over the state, was at Kirby Puckett's memorial service this year — which was also held at the Dome.

But it isn't really about baseball, it's about a tax without the referendum required by state law. It isn't even about public subsidies for millionaire ballplayers and billionaire team owners — if the Twins have such a good case for public subsidy, let them make it to the voters of Hennepin County.

When the Hennepin County Commissioners vote whether or not to levy the tax, this vote could also specify a referendum. The legislature did nothing to mandate the tax, which only the county can levy, and they did not prohibit the county from holding a referendum. So if enough people showed up to the three scheduled public hearings and demanded a referendum, perhaps, just perhaps, there could be a referendum. According to the county web site:
The Hennepin County Board today announced the schedule of three public hearings during the week of Aug. 21 before it votes on imposing a countywide sales tax to help finance a new Minnesota Twins ballpark in downtown Minneapolis.

County residents are invited to provide input at the three hearings:
  • 5 – 7 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 22, Board Room, 24th Floor, Hennepin County Government Center, 300 S. 6th St., Minneapolis.

  • 6 – 8 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 23, Council Chambers, Bloomington Civic Plaza, 1800 W. Old Shakopee Road.

  • 6 – 8 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 24, Council Chambers, Maple Grove Government Center, 12800 Arbor Lakes Parkway.

It may be the bottom of the ninth inning for referendum supporters, but even if the county commissioners do pass the tax without referendum, there are many decisions to be made and votes to be taken this year and next. No design has been finalized. No requests for bids have been sent out. No bonds have been issued. The only polls that these commissioners (and many legislators) listen to are elections. If only one commissioner is replaced this fall (referendum opponents Mike Opat, Mark Stenglein, and Peter McLaughlin are all up for reelection this November), it could mean the whole ballgame, so to speak.


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