April 25, 2005

Henco to Voters: "Grin and Bear It, Suckers!"

Hennepin County continues its endless battle to ram a Twins stadium down the throats of its constituents.

The latest plan for the $478 million, 42,000-seat stadium project would not require any state money. Twins owner Carl Pohlad would put up $125 million. A Hennepin County-wide sales tax of 0.15 percent -- about 3 cents on a $20 purchase -- would provide $28 million a year in financing.

But can the plan make it out of the Legislature?

Maybe it can, maybe it can't.

But if they have their way, the taxpayers of Hennepin County will have no say in the matter.

If you live in Minneapolis or anywhere in Hennepin County, the wheels are turning to, in a government sense, dine and dash:

The 2005 plan comes at a time of extraordinarily tight budgets and stretched public services.

The Minneapolis City Council has already suggested raising the city's sales tax by one-half of 1 percent [and it's already huge! - Ed.] to hire more police officers. That idea will go to a referendum, but county and Twins officials don't want residents to vote on the sales-tax increase for a stadium, saying a referendum would kill the deal.

Randy Johnson, chariman of the Henco board, was more bald-faced about it:
The chairman of the Hennepin County board says he's against a public vote on a sales tax that would help pay for a new Twins stadium in Minneapolis.

Randy Johnson said the county board was elected to make just those kinds of decisions. He said if voters don't like it, they can vote the board members out of office.


After a couple of years worth of taxpayer-funded PR to smooth the ruffled feathers, and after the pro-tax groups beat the dissenters about the head and shoulders with more "Happy To Pay For A Better Hennepin County" twaddle, and - this is probably more like it in Hennepin County - after Stockholm Syndrome reasserts itself.

In other words - "We know the voters will turn the idea down, so we're going to run an end-around past them, and hope the Commissioners up for election next don't take the fall..."

Oh - and do you taxpayers in the rest of the state think you're going to get off easily?

The plan as presented so far does not include a roof, but urges the state to consider paying $100 million for one. The Twins and Hennepin County have said they would build an open-air stadium if money for a roof was not available.
Baseball in Minnesota. D'ya think the roof'll come up in conversation, shortly after ground is broken?

As always, I'm glad I live in Ramsey County. For what good it'll do me.

Posted by Mitch at April 25, 2005 12:29 PM | TrackBack

First...guess who was just re-elected in 2004? That's right....Randy Johnson. He doesn't give a fiddler's-fart. He already has nearly 4 more years to raise taxes, strip private property owners of their property rights (smoking ban), and now....pound a tax hike to buy a BILLIONAIRE team owner and his MILLIONAIRE employees a stadium.

If Johnson doesn't fit the definition of RINO, nobody does. When are the conservatives in Bloomington and Eden Prairie gonna take care of this scumbag? the earliest!

And....if Johnson KNOWS that the public will vote DOWN this proposal....WHY THE HELL IS HE DOING IT?!?! He just admitted that the People do NOT want it....but he's gonna IGNORE the People and damn us to a few decades of taxes.

Posted by: Dave at April 25, 2005 03:58 PM

It's the same story everywhere, isn't it? Over ten years ago, Allegheny County PA added 1% county tax to the 6% state sales tax in order to fund cultural projects in the Pittsburgh area -- theaters, museums, arts in general really. In theory this should have included sports stadium projects. However, a few years ago, football and baseball team owners demanded that southwestern PA counties pay for a new facility to replace Three Rivers Stadium, so the counties sought to garner additional funding with voters' permission by putting it to the vote. With the exception of Allegheny, all of the local counties voted to reject public funding of a new stadium. A win for the taxpayers.

The owners and politicians immediately concocted something called "Plan B", which was essentially no different than what the public rejected. Both the Pirates and Steelers wanted new facilities; both teams got it. A loss for the taxpayers.

Keep an eye on the McClatchy family of Sacramento. They own the Star-Tribune, and Kevin McClatchy owns the Pittsburgh Pirates. They are immensely wealthy, and steadfastly Democrat. I can only imagine that the Strib must wholeheartedly endorse public funding of sports stadiums.

Don't trust the people who sign Nick Coleman's paychecks.

Posted by: Dave in Pgh. at April 25, 2005 04:55 PM

You may not like Nick, but if the bosses told him to write nice things about the stadium, he'd tell them where to put the memo, and offer to help wrap it around a pineapple first.

Management doesn't tell the columnists how to write about issues.

Posted by: Lileks at April 25, 2005 05:41 PM

I oppose public funding of private enterprise of any kind, but I also oppose government by referendum, even on such issues as this.

Posted by: Will Allen at April 25, 2005 06:14 PM

'Management doesn't tell the columnists how to write about issues.'

Yeah, that's why they told Soucheray to just forget about writing columns altogether.

Posted by: Carl Kolchak at April 26, 2005 12:39 AM

Whoops. I keep forgetting that there are other people besides NC who work at the Strib. Now I'm going to have nightmares about memo-wrapped pineapples and hockey sticks.

As for government by referendum, I agree that it is an anomaly in a representative system. But the people who chose to allow the voters to decide on the stadium issue would not even abide by the outcome of the vote. Were they trying to prove that having a public referendum is a bad system? Or did they just not care? My guess is that money speaks louder than the *gag* collective will *gag* of the people, and the local lords could not resist the siren call.

Posted by: Dave in Pgh. at April 26, 2005 01:42 AM

As much as I hate the idea of paying more in sales tax, I could list a hundred other big ticket items my taxes are being paid for that have never been used by me. At least I'll actually gladly go to a game outdoors when it is nice out and get at least something for my money other than a road to get to work...

Posted by: Dave at April 26, 2005 12:04 PM

We plan on downsizing to a townhouse in a couple of years. Odds are, it won't be in Hennepin County. Or Ramsey County.

Posted by: R-Five at April 26, 2005 09:37 PM

I think it speaks volumes that Pawlenty, Sviggum and Dean Johnson - none of whom live in Hennepin County are all chomping at the bit to sock it to the Hennepin County taxpayers on this one.

Will the taxpayer's league hold legislators feet to the fire on the no new taxes pledge on this one?

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