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April 27, 2005

Voter's Guide: Assistance needed

I've made some more changes to the Voter's Guide, but unfortunately the number of Pro-American (pro-stadium) legislators has stayed the same: 54. The number of Anti-American (anti-stadium) legislators now sits at 50, and the "unknown" sits at 30. So, as if you didn't know this already, it looks like it is going to be close.

The Voter's Guide is based on literally years of information I've gleaned from newspaper articles, Google searches, and letters I've received from the legislators themselves. You'll also note that the guide focuses on the Minnesota House only. The House is full of the biggest bunch of do-nothings this state has ever seen. Any bill that passes through the House is an epic achievement whether it is a bill to build a bike shed or a bill to pass the state budget. The Senate is another story. The stadium bill will be a tough sell there too, but I think it will have an easier time there than in the House.

Anyway, please take a moment to look over the Voter's Guide and let me know if I need to make any other corrections. I plan on writing some more legislators tonight, but it would be much better if letters and emails came from their own constituents. Thanks.

Recently I received a letter from my state Senator (the esteemed Steve Kelley of Hopkins) and an email from my representative (Ron Latz of SLP). Steve Kelley is on board. I have little doubt of that. And although he wrote his letter before the Hennepin County plan was revealed, he had this to say about a stadium bill's chances:

I believe that workable stadium legislation passing this session has about a 20% chance of doing so. If legislation does not pass this year, we will keep working in future years to make sure the Twins have a home in Minnesota.

I plan on writing him again to ask him if he thinks the chances have improved. I'll let you know what he says.

Then, I got an email from Ron Latz. I can't figure this guy out and it pains me to say that I just don't know which way he would vote. He wrote me this response:

I believe most people, myself included, would like to see the Twins and Vikings remain in Minnesota. They have given a lot to our community over the years. Minnesota would be changed for the worse if we lost them. However, I want to make sure we address our state's higher priority needs in a responsible way. Consequently, 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.

I want to assure you that I will carefully scrutinize all stadium proposals that may come before me for a vote to ensure that they are fiscally prudent and are consistent with our state's basic values, which recognize both the importance of professional sports and also the need to meet Minnesota's more critical problems. I will evaluate the Hennepin Country Twins proposal with these criteria.

I can't help it, but I take this as a "No." And have you ever seen a better example of policitian-speak? It really is a thing of beauty. He attempts to allay my fears by saying he is not "philosophically opposed" to stadium financing, but at the same time he suggests that he just might not support a stadium bill based on some nebulous criteria he has set up for himself. Of course, I wrote him back saying:

As you probably know, the Twins and Hennepin County are not asking for any state funding, so I would think that the state's ability to fund higher priorities is unchanged and the fiscal integrity of the state is protected. Again, the state has been taken out of the equation.

I'll let you know if he responds.

See how fun writing your legislators can be? Give it a try today and let me know what they say!

Posted by snackeru at April 27, 2005 12:57 PM | Stadiums


I think the people we have to work on at the Capitol are the Abrams and Bellangers. Those are guys that really need to be sold on this Hennipen County tax. They have alot of clout and their positions (against) are pretty well known at this time. I don't think the Twins are bluffing when they say that a referendum would be a deal killer. I am left wondering what would happen if the legislature doesn't do their jobs of elected officials and decides to attach a refernendum. Is there any possible scenerio or would there even be enough time in the session for a St. Paul offer sans referendum to be considered by the Twins? Could they switch sites that quickly? (allow a St. Paulite to dream) I have been trying to find someone who can do the math or has the figures to see what the difference is between a .15% tax on goods in Henn Cty compared to a 2.5-3% bar and restaurant tax in St. Paul. Was the Henn Cty tax rev estimated at $38 mil a year Shane? I can not recall St. Paul estimates for annual rev from a bar and restaurant.
Despite newspaper quotes from Randy Kelly and St. Paul officials congratulating Mpls and saying the goal was just keeping the Twins in Minnesota, there still is behind the scenes planning. Yesterday mayoral staff, chamber of commerce reps and lawyers met to make sure everything is still in place if the Mpls plans implode. Did you notice the editorial in the Pioneer Press yesterday praising the Hennipen County plan but pointing out "the voters have not spoken" ie refernendum. If I have learned anything over the last 6 years of stadium debating is that editorials do not just show up like this. You can be sure that sugggestions or drafts of that editorial originated at City Hall and/or chamber of commerce offices. There also was a quote from John Labosksy (a major behind the scenes ballpark player) of the Capitol City partnership saying how the ballpark plans could still include a "few curveballs"
Don't worry Shane, I still want this issue resolved this session and right now Minneapolis appears the best bet. I am just laying out some info and possibilities that could throw a wrench in things.

Posted by: Jim in St. Paul at April 27, 2005 2:37 PM

Ron Latz is a "No" Shane. He is clearly against a stadium by saying there are other priorities ahead of this. He is doing his best policitian speak to make sure you still vote for him on this issue. I'm not voting for him when the time comes, in fact, I didn't vote for him in the first place!

Posted by: Cheesehead Craig at April 27, 2005 4:04 PM

Jim -- Are you quoting the Pioneer Press? Just asking.

Posted by: SBG at April 27, 2005 5:39 PM

I used to the Voters Guide to find out that my legislator is AGAINST! ::gasp:: I promptly wrote her an email; and I hope to get her to agree to an interview.

Posted by: TwinsJunkie at April 27, 2005 6:05 PM

The recent info I mentioned regarding the editorial on the Hennepin County plan and the John Labosky quote were from the PiPress. Other info on meetings, etc... are from some reliable sources.

Posted by: Jim in St. Paul at April 27, 2005 6:32 PM

Jim, I have read the same stuff. In fact, I have read that Kelly has already told the Twins that he essentially won't give up until the Hennepin County deal actually goes through. Now granted, he is in a holding pattern right now, but I also don't think we've heard the last from St. Paul.

According to PiPress articles I've read, their editorial board floated a 2% restaurant tax that could raise $175 million. And according to the St. Paul's proposal to the Stadium Steering Committee (http://www.stadium.state.mn.us/rec/appendix4.pdf) a 3% tax on "meals and on-sale liquor" would raise $214 million. So obviously, the city doesn't have the same financial muscle as the entirety of Hennepin County. A 3% tax is way more noticeable than a .15% tax. I wonder if that would work against them. But hey, if Hennepin County's plan falls through I will immediately start focusing on St. Paul.

And I'm a little suprised by your suggestion to focus on Abrams and Bellangers. I just can't help but think they are hopeless. We might as well write Krinkie too while we are at it. Well, I take that back, Abrams is a little more reasonable than Krinkie (I can't believe I just typed that). HAving said that I did read that Abrams said that "lodging and rental car taxes might be more palatable because they're paid mostly by out-of-town visitors." (http://www.startribune.com/stories/468/5371086.html) Personally, I don't think he would vote for any tax increases for a Twins stadium no matter what. He never has. I will write him though. It can't do any harm, that is for sure.

Posted by: Shane at April 27, 2005 9:30 PM

The reason Abrams and Bellanger (and Krinkie for that matter) need to be focused on is because they hold positions of power in committees. Bills can get held up or not even heard if they use their influence. The rank and file won't have a chance to vote on this plan if it doesn't get through committees.

Posted by: Jiminstpaul at April 28, 2005 3:28 AM

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