Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Stadium-loving politicians deserve a cold November

Here is Nick Coleman's voter's guide on politicians like Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka) and Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Stenglein. I still like Coleman's phrase from an earlier column, "money talks, democracy walks."

October 14, 2006

Nick Coleman, Star Tribune

Now that the Twins have been bounced from the playoffs, it is time to pay tribute to the Metrodome and to rain down retribution on the heads of the politicians who decided to replace it by putting a $1 billion burden on the backs of taxpayers.

First, the Dome: The temperature was 33 degrees outside at 7 p.m. Wednesday when the Twins might have been hosting the Tigers in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series (if the Twins hadn't lost the first round to Oakland). And there were 23-mile-per-hour gusts from Fargo, N.D. Inside the Dome, it was 70 degrees. Outdoors, at the site of Pohlad Palace, scheduled to open in 2010 to the elements and the fumes from the garbage burner, it would have been freezing, and fragrant.

I received some nasty mail during the Twins' brief postseason run, telling me I had no right to root for the Twins (I've been watching them since I was 10) or to write about them, because I have been a critic of the scandalous shenanigans that went into last spring's stadium vote by the Legislature.

Well, I do not believe that a fan has to leave his brain at the gate. So perhaps a stadium refresher course is due.

The highly choreographed stadium campaign ended in a victory for big money. Despite shadow-puppet opposition from some who voted no because they knew their votes weren't needed, the Legislature allowed the Hennepin County Board to fund the new stadium with sales-tax revenues, but without putting it to a vote of the public, as previously had been required.

This was a dive that was bigger than Torii Hunter's belly flop during Game 2 against Oakland, when he rolled around like Sparky the Seal while the A's ran around the bases.

The fix was in.

At the end of August -- just before voters returned from vacation -- the Hennepin County Board decided, boys against the girls (4-3), to seal the deal, ordering a county that can barely pay for the necessities to issue 30-year bonds for a half-billion-dollar ballpark.

That half-billion, after interest, will cost the public a billion. The cost to confidence in our system of government might be bigger than that.

To see what should have happened if democracy had been permitted to run its course, you only have to look to Anoka County, where a citizen uprising has brought a similar boondoggle -- a stadium proposed by the Minnesota Vikings -- to a standstill.

All year long, as it began to sink in that Anoka County was planning to do an end-run around the referendum law, a chorus of taxpayer voices and City Council resolutions has demanded that voters be given a say on the plan. Last week, even the City Council in Blaine -- where the stadium would be built -- joined in, demanding a referendum on the tax subsidy for Zygi Wilf, and a number of candidates for the county board are seeking such a vote.

"They've wakened the sleeping giant," says Mary Capra, the mayor of Centerville, who was one of the first local leaders to stand up to the stadium blitz. "This has been a real education in how important it is to watch the Legislature."

Are Hennepin County residents lesser citizens? No. If they had had longer to think about what was happening, it's hard to believe some kind of groundswell would not have forestalled a stadium for the Twins. In the end, we still might have gotten a ballpark. But it would have been a better deal for the taxpayers, with a more meaningful contribution from Minnesota's second-richest man, Carl Pohlad. That would have been a good thing.

By the way, a rally sponsored by Citizens Against Stadium Taxes will be held today from 2 to 6 p.m. at Stub & Herb's, 227 Oak St. SE., near the University of Minnesota campus. To learn more, and to find out how your legislator voted on the stadium, visit

If you're still reading, Mr. Pohlad, I want to assure you that I still love my Twins, which were "mine" long before they were "yours." I am happy to hear you are keeping Torii Hunter for another season. But please do the fans a favor:

Get his eyesight checked.

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