April 29, 2004
Got a letter regarding the stadium issue today from my representative Ron Latz (DFL). In the past Mr. Latz has been pretty pro-stadium, and that was one of the reasons I voted for him. However, today he wrote:
I have set as my standard a stadium bill that does not affect the ability of the state to fund more important priorities, that is made in the context of adequate funding for those more important priorities, that protects the fiscal integrity of the state, that has enough private participation, and that takes care of our public institutional need for a stadium for the University of Minnesota's Gopher football team, too. I am not philosophically opposed to public investment in public
infrastructure, and I consider a stadium, done correctly, to be public infrastructure, just like the Metrodome, Xcel Energy Center, the Minneapolis Convention Center, etc. However, there are many higher priorities for state investment than athletic stadiums which the Governor and House Majority have so far failed to adequately fund.
So far, I am not convinced that the stadium proposals in the House meet my standards.
Thanks for your input!
Thanks for the update, although I am very disappointed in what you have to say. Essentially how I read this is that you won't support the stadium bill before the House Taxes committee because it is authored and being pushed for by the Republican leadership. Partisan politics at its finest. Because of this blatant partisanship not only will we have "higher priorities" that are inadequately funded, but yet again the legislature will fail to pass a workable stadium bill. Do two wrongs make a right? Already we have seen stadium costs double due to the inability of our elected officials to figure out how to "fairly" solve this problem. 31 other markets have built stadiums while Minnesota has bickered, pouted, and whined to the point of nauseum. Your inactivity on this issue is going to cost Minnesota millions whether it be a year from now when a stadium bill actually passes, or 10 years from now when we try to lure the NFL and MLB back to our state. If you don't think that will happen, all I need to do is point out the Minnesota Wild. Let's figure this problem out this year, save our state some money, and move on. Please push politics aside and reconsider your stance on this issue. Thanks for listening.
On letters like these I've really got to hold myself back from lashing out. I can't believe anyone in our legislature would want to push this to another year.
UPDATE 4/30/04 4:12 PM: Ron Latz responds:
I appreciate your response to my explanation of how I am approaching this issue. You misinterpret my priority setting as partisan in motivation. I come to the issue with an open mind and not a philosophical rejection of public financial involvement in stadium funding. This is more than can be said of many of my colleagues. Also, the Senate author is our own DFL Senator Steve Kelley. That said, my district survey revealed a 5 to 2 rejection of stadium funding of any sort, while supporting raising taxes to support other priorities of government service. I think I have a principled approach on the merits and is consistent with the overall sentiment of my constituents. I would love to say we saved the Twins and Vikings, and gave the Gophers a great new place to play. It just has to be done the right way and in the right context. We'll see what emerges from the tax committee and on to the House floor.
To which I responded:
Thanks for the clarification. I appreciate your thoughtfulness on the issue and your willingness to correspond with me. However, this issue of stadiums in Minnesota isn't going away, and quite frankly I'm sick of it. It needs to be solved. I know it is important to take seriously the views of your constituency, but I also hope there are times that as an elected official you do what you think is best for the state. Most people cannot get past the teams' owners and their billions of dollars. They don't understand that our professional sports teams are much too important to this region to only consider the wealth of the owner when deciding whether or not to fund stadiums. What I'm trying to say is that people do not understand the issue as well as you do. Please take a close look at whatever comes out of the House Taxes committee. If you feel it could work, please vote for it. It will get this monkey off our backs, allow us to focus on other things, and save the state millions of dollars in the long run. Thanks again for your time.
He then responded "Got it!" So, we'll see...
Posted by snackeru at April 29, 2004 9:55 PM | Stadiums
Shane, we will lose another 2000 teachers this year in Minnesota (a number I heard from my state rep today). The House just killed the Northstar commuter line and affordable housing appropriations today. The police departments need funds to handle new "homeland security" burden. Funds to your own U are not being supported this year as they have been in the past. What makes a stadium bill this year so important? The Twins are not going anywhere. Don't you think Minnesota has a few higher priorities? ...Gadfly (You'll recognize me by those dots!)
Posted by: Gadfly at April 29, 2004 10:40 PM
Looks like a form letter to me. Remember when we both got the exact same email letter from him the same day? He will never address specifics on a letter to him. He will just speak of generalities and that the bill is not good enough. I am disappointed in him in that he will not address any specifics that are brought up. I realize that he gets lots of correspondence to go through. However, a mass email that clearly does not address what the content of the letter is is useless and I will not be voting for him in the future. Using the blanket "more important priorities" without stating specifics, is frankly cowardly and sadly the standard of politicians today.
Posted by: Cheesehead Craig at April 30, 2004 8:40 AM
Thanks for your comments. I understand where you are coming from, but I don't think funding the examples you give above and funding a new stadium are mutually exclusive. Essentially I want it all. Also, does not funding a stadium mean that the Northstar line will be funded, or that police will get more money? No, all the examples you give above will not see a dime more if we don't build stadiums. So anti-stadium people would have it that not only will we have these priorities inadequately funded, but we also won't build a Twins stadium. Why? This does not sound like a good deal to me at all. Let's start solving problems instead of pushing them aside all the time.
You may be right that the Twins aren't going anywhere, but in 2007 the CBA expires and the player's union has promised not to stand in the way of contraction. The North Stars left, why won't the Twins? It is an unfortunate reality that this is the way stadiums are funded, but if we want to be a part of the game we've got to play by the rules that have been set up. The bill that is before the House right now is a pretty good deal. It does not raise any new state taxes, and it gives people who don't want to build a stadium a way to opt out. I'll be very frank about this but I want a new stadium for me. I don't care about millionaire players and billionaire owners, I only care about me. I'm a typical fan who just wants to take his kids to the ball game. And I desperately want to pay for it! Find a way to let fans like me pay for the stadium and I'll be a happy camper. I think the bill before the House right now does a good job of that.
Finally, interest rates are low, and construction workers in the area are in desperate need of finding work. Construction unions are lining up in support of building stadiums. They need jobs just like teachers do. Every year we wait stadium costs increase and the final bill ends up costing Minnesota millions of dollars more. Why wait? Let's solve the problem now!
Like I said I appreciate your comments, but I don't think we'll be changing each other's minds any time soon. Anyway, thanks for the debate!
Posted by: Shane at April 30, 2004 9:22 AM
You are right on the money. No way Latz gets my vote this year. Did I tell you that our old representative, Jim Rhodes, used to call me with stadium updates? And why didn't I vote for Peilen!?!?!? Oh well, that's life.
Posted by: Shane at April 30, 2004 9:24 AM
I think the "priorities" argument is overplayed. Using this argument we should, nay must, cut or reject any funding that has to do with recreation or the arts if we have any funding shortfall with our real "priorities".
"What's more important, snow mobile trails in northern Minnesota or our children’s education?"
"What's more important, The Ordway or making prescriptions affordable for our elderly?"
When are people going to realize that the budget needs to be flexible? Things are not this black and white. If they were, we would close absolutely every state funded museum, state park, public beach, and literally hundreds of arguably quality programs across this state before we would cut one teacher. Funny how it doesn’t work out that way. Our budget needs to be flexible. Yes, I will admit that a stadium is another luxury, but using the "priorities" argument sounds weak.
Posted by: Tim at April 30, 2004 2:26 PM
Shane, you and I may both want it all, but then we have to be willing to argue for the thing that makes it all possible: higher taxes. I find some of the targeted taxes being proposed for stadium funding to be a reasonable mix. But I find it appalling that our governor and legislature are spending time and political capital trying to create a stadium deal that will fly while they leave transit workers on strike for 44 day, cities and counties underfunded, and our universities loosing ground. Where is the acknowledgment that other important services are being left in the dust due to the tax policies currently prevailing? Where is the work to put together a "deal" for education or transit?
You see, in some pure newtonian physics kind of world we could have it all, but in the quantum physics world of real politics, where nobody knows whether the cat is alive or dead until they look into the box, spending _time_ on a stadium deal robs us in a very real way of the time we need our leadership spending on other very real problems. That's where the priorities argument comes in.
I guess I believe partisan politics, to go back to the title of this post, is not so bad. At least, its the only system we have for having these disagreements in a civil way. I can do without the crazier elements of our system, like sticking unrelated riders on important legislation, but a discussion of _priorities_ is always a difficult one and one in which party platforms and values have a legitimate role, I think. ...Gadfly
Posted by: Gadfly at May 1, 2004 6:57 PM