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April 18, 2004

Next week important for stadium bill

From April 26-28 Pawlenty's stadium bill will be heard before the House Taxes committee. This is a make or break kind of deal for the bill and Aron Kahn of the Pioneer Press writes that Ron Abrams, chair of the committee, promises "a great deal of changes and scrutiny." That is not good news. You know that a referendum is one of Abrams's promised changes, but what else does he have in mind? I'm sure he has some problems with the tax increment financing method of paying off the bonds for the stadiums, but I think he has his sites set on the taxes for the host community. Specualtion will get us nowhere, but I am nervous.

Today there were a couple of good articles in the TC dailies concerning my favorite topic. The first, another fine offering from Aron Kahn, points out that this is an election year for the entire House and that maybe our representatives won't have the guts to vote for a stadium knowing that their jobs are on the line. The one good thing we have going for us is that finally our Republican leaders are in favor of the bill: Pawlenty wrote it, Doug Stang is sponsoring it, and Steve Sviggum, speaker of the House, is in favor of it. However, Kahn writes:

To be sure, there are pressures on members of the Republican-led House to vote for the stadium bill, because Pawlenty, a Republican, proposed the two-stadium plan, and because House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, is a co-author of the bill.

Yet, [Sen.] Marty and others think it won't be easy sledding in the House, because members will place higher priority on their own re-election campaigns than on loyalty to their leaders.

"Their number one goal is getting re-elected,'' Marty said. "If they don't pass a bill, what happens? The election comes and goes and they're fine.''

This is what confuses me. The House passed a stadium bill in 2002. While it isn't as "workable" as the bill now making it through our legislature, it was still a controversial stadium bill. As far as I know, no one lost their job as a result of voting in favor of this bill. It leads me to believe that while we have some vocal proponents and critics of stadium financing, most people just don't care enough to pay close attention. True, you'll hear Joe Blow on the street say, "No state money for billionaires," but if a stadium bill passes, most of these critics probably won't even know the difference or know that it passed in the first place. So, I hope House Republicans show some guts. I honestly don't think they have anything to worry about.

Our second article is from the Star Tribune and it was written by Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis from the House, who is selling her bill for community ownership of the Twins. I am all in favor of this bill. I would love to own part of the Twins and "take the wheels" off the team, that is for sure. But I don't think either Pohlad or MLB would go for it anymore. The teams wheels are about the only leverage they have right now. However, I do agree if the state owns or controls the team as this bill proposes, building a stadium with public financing might be easier for our legislature to swallow. The bill has these characteristics:

A range of investment possibilities from a 25 percent private managing partner, responsible for all team operations, expenses and interaction with Major League Baseball.

A class of major investors who would own stakes in 1 percent to 5 percent increments (akin to the board of directors of a corporation).

Class B souvenir stock at $100 a certificate. This final class would only get to vote on the relocation of the team.

Kahn also writes:

In addition, this proposal answers the question of whether the community wants the Twins much more efficiently than a ballot referendum. It would be a true market test of community support for the Twins. People would be asked to put their money where their mouth is.

If the financial test doesn't work, it's proof to many of us that the community doesn't care. Incidentally, if it does work, it may pave the public opinion way for either private or public support for a stadium.

"It would be a true market test of community support for the Twins." I tend to agree with this, but I also don't think it is this simple. However, I also don't think it would be that hard for the Twins to get a lot of people to line up to buy a part of the team. In a recent poll from Harris Interactive the Twins rank number 5 on the list of American's favorite baseball teams. Number 5! This, of course, has a lot to do with the publicity over contraction, and also due the Twins recent winning ways. So, if the Twins "went public" ala the Green Bay Packers, I think we would see a lot of people across the country buying stock in the team. I know I would. We'll be keeping track of Phyllis Kahn's bill for community ownership, you can be rest assured of that.

Posted by snackeru at April 18, 2004 8:13 PM | Stadiums


Abrams and The Gov did eventually have a long lunch and from what I gather Pawlenty really wants this issue to get settled this session. He does not want this whole thing coming up again next session when it is bonding year. Although the average person probably can tell no difference between a bonding year and a non-bonding year. Every year session will take long, they won't get anything done, and the Governor will call a special session.
I think it was in the paper somewhere and I also heard it through my sources; the stadium bill will be the absulutely last thing voted on this session.
I have gone back and forth on this community ownership thing. I know folks that are behind it and they are good people and loyal baseball fans. But what it comes down to for me is that I want a new Twins ballpark and the best chance of that happening is for us to give Pohlad some money. Plain and simple. Community ownership will only muck up the issue, and delay the whole thing even more. I have kids and I want to take them to see the Twins outside before they can buy their own beer.
Jim in St. Paul

Posted by: Jim in St. Paul at April 19, 2004 3:40 PM

Jim, good news about Abrams and Pawlenty. I hope Abrams is just putting the fear of God in the teams with his rhetoric. I also heard that the stadium bill will be the last bill heard in the session (or the special session as the case may be). And anything that will move us closer to a new stadium I am in favor of. If it is community ownership, so be it. Will it delay building a new stadium? I'm not so sure of that. I mean, we've had to "what until next year" for a good 10 years now doing it Pohlad's way. I'm also not sure that community ownership is the answer, but I appreciate the effort.

Posted by: Shane at April 20, 2004 8:05 AM

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