May 5, 2005
I think this has a real shot
You know what I can't wait for? I can't wait for when I can actually watch a Twins game without thinking about this stupid stadium business. I watch games now thinking only about stadiums and the Twins chances in a new stadium, how the Twins might play in a new stadium, how the hot dogs will taste in a new stadium ... It is driving me nuts. I can't wait until I can actually write about what is happening on the field. Right now my on-field analysis is limited to, "Boy that Justin Morneau sure can hit," and "Cuddyer seems to be playing a little better now," and "I like Nick Punto at second base." That's it. I hope you enjoyed it. The rest of my thought processes are taken up by dreams of a new Twins ballpark.
I've been following the stadium issue for 9 years now. My first job out of grad school was at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale during 97-98. I remember literally clicking the reload button on my Netscape 4 browser every 10 seconds waiting to see if the state legislature accepted Pohlad's offer of a $100 million donation. Of course, that turned out to be a $100 million loan, the legislature turned him down (and that is an understatement), and we've been tortured year after year ever since. Every January I get my hopes up, and for 9 years come May my spirits are squashed like a bug. Will this year be different?
Yes. I know I shouldn't get my hopes up but holy-fricken cow I think we might be heading to third on this. In the end there will certainly be a play at the plate, but I like our chances! I've been preparing to write a "stadium chances" entry on this fine blog since the Hennepin County vote two days ago. I was going to look at where the legislature is concerning health care, education, and budget bills, but then I read this article in the StarTribune. An audible gasp escaped my lips when my eyes hit these passages:
"Two-thirds of the Senate should be in favor," said Minority Leader Dick Day, R-Owatonna. "I'm sure going to vote for it."
Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar, another supporter, said the plan has "a better chance of passage than in the past."
House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, also predicted success for the proposal, adding: "I will do whatever I can to enhance passage of the Twins stadium bill."
Gov. Tim Pawlenty has pronounced the plan "reasonable," and a House vote could be held as early as next week, Sviggum said.
BLINK BLINK ... did I just read that correctly? 2/3 of the Senate will vote in favor? Steve Sviggum is going to bat for the plan and will practically do whatever it takes? Sviggum also suggests a House vote could be held as early as next week? I don't know about you, but when I read that statement I seriously get a tear in my eye. I am misting up here!! If the thought of a Twins stadium bill (a workable stadium bill!) passing makes me so happy, I am fearful for my state of mind if a bill actually does pass. I will be worthless for about a week. I will practically be in a state of catatonic happy-shock which will leave me slack-jawed and drooling all over my favorite Twins T-shirt. I will be so stunned my wife will have to feed me pudding out of a straw because the TWINS WILL FINALLY HAVE A NEW BALLPARK!!!
In addition, I watched WCCO TV news last night and they showed a good example of just how far Sviggum may go to make sure this bill passes. Dan Dorman, a Republican member of the House from Albert Lea, got a toungue lashing from Steve Sviggum yesterday when Dorman suggested that he would not vote for the stadium bill if the legislature doesn't also agree to allow other communities to levy sales tax increases without legislative approval. WCCO showed Sviggum practically berating Dorman over this. Dorman had the same look on his face as my children do when my wife and I scold them. Nice work Sviggum. Way to keep your underlings in line!
OK. While I am very optimistic, there is still a long way to go. Let's not get ahead of ourselves (I know, too late!). The Senate is a done deal. I have no doubt. But 1/4 of the House is comprised of Hennepin County legislators. Add to that the number of non-Hennepin County legislators that do not favor the plan and you've got a very close vote. According to the Pioneer Press:
The Pioneer Press contacted 29 of the 53 legislators whose districts are composed totally or partially of Hennepin County communities. Most of those legislators represent districts that are entirely within the county. Of the 29, 16 were against the bill, eight were undecided and five were for it.
Truthfully, those 5 legislators that are for the bill may be all it needs for passage. What does an out-state legislator, or even a legislator from Ramsey County, have to lose by voting for this bill? Nothing!! They are lining up in favor of it. And I really don't understand why Hennepin County legislators are so against it. Sure, Hennepin County will be paying for most of it, but it is in Hennepin County! It will be owned by Hennepin County! People from all over the 5 state area will be coming to this ballpark and spending their hard-earned dollars in Hennepin County! The benefits to Hennepin County will be enormous.
Now for the tough part: can this bill make it out of committee without a referendum attached? Rep. Lyndon Carlson, DFL-Crystal doesn't seem to think so:
"The Legislature will be very hard pressed to turn down a referendum at this point, and that automatically kicks it (a decision) to 2006," said Rep. Lyndon Carlson, DFL-Crystal. While it would be possible to hold a vote this coming November, Carlson said it would make more sense for it to coincide with the 2006 general election.
That would be a deal breaker. I can't believe these short sighted legislators! Show some backbone! I don't care what any of them say about the burden on Hennepin County being too much or their insistence that a referendum be attached, the only reason they wouldn't support this bill is because they think they will lose their jobs if they vote yes. What a bunch of pansies. Keeping the Twins in Minnesota will not cost you your job, Rep. Carlson. Losing the Twins will. Once stadium construction starts people will forget all about their precious 3 pennies. It happened with the Metrodome and it happened with the X. People forget very quickly. But I know for a fact that no one will forget losing the Twins.
What now? The bill is headed for the Local Government Committee next and the chair of that committee already predicts that it will pass. Next I would think it will be head for the Krinkie's Taxes committee, but I wouldn't be surprised if Sviggum tries to circumvent this somehow. Unlikely, but it can be done. For right now I am going to 1) write my representative again and urge him to make the right decision, 2) I will also write the members of the Local Government Committee and as a Hennepin County resident forcefully express to them how much I want them to pass this bill as is. Finally, I think it is time for all of us to write the Star Tribune (firstname.lastname@example.org) and the Pioneer Press (email@example.com) to let them know how much we all favor this plan.
Let me close by saying I know this is still a long shot. I know that. But this is the best shot we have. Now is not the time for pessimism. Now is the time for action. We have a unique opportunity right now to blitz the legislature and the media with our thoughts and views on the merits of this plan. We need to do everything we can to get this bill passed and to put this all behind us! Man! Do we ever need to put this behind us! So please, WRITE YOUR LEGISLATOR! WRITE MY LEGISLATOR! WRITE PAWLENTY, SVIGGUM, AND JOHNSON AND URGE THEM TO PASS THIS BILL! And every time you get pessimistic just think about outdoor baseball. Got it? Good! Let's get to work!
Posted by snackeru at May 5, 2005 7:22 AM | Stadiums
Shane, this has some real fire behind it. I was reading the STrib piece today (5/5) and the thing that hit me was a the column LEAD OFF with the supporters and the detractors were buried near the end. In the past, its been the detractors (Krinkie,Kahn et.al.) getting the focus.
Posted by: Brian Maas at May 5, 2005 8:58 AM
You'd be worthless AFTER the bill gets passed? As opposed to how you are now...
Oh come on, you set the ball, I just spiked it.
Posted by: Cheesehead Craig at May 5, 2005 9:45 AM
Actually the ballpark won't be owned by Hennepin County - it'll be owned by the 'Ballpark Commission' created to be the recipient of the bonds that would be issued to provide the county's share of the project. The county does get to name at least two members of the five-person commission, including the chair, but that's a far cry from 'ownership'.
Posted by: David Wintheiser at May 5, 2005 2:15 PM
Get to know the enemy. Just another wannabe politician making noise to get himself elected.
Posted by: vince at May 5, 2005 2:59 PM
Suffice it to say that the stadium will be owned by the public. It will not be owned by either Carl Pohlad, his heirs, or the Twins. It will be interesting to see how the bill progresses through your wonderful legislature. We can only hope and pray that anti-tax zealots like Krinkie, Abrams, and our own esteemed David Wintheiser don't turn the Minneapolis into a minor league city. I am also interested in how all of this will effect the Vikings. I fear a contracted and ugly stadium fight ala Miller Park that will damage the Vikings' challenges.
Curt in Grand Forks (who is living, and has lived in several "cold Omahas" and assures you that it is no fun)
Posted by: Curt Hanson at May 5, 2005 3:13 PM
Well said, Curt. My point was more that the Twins would not own the stadium, and if any public entity will benefit from the ballpark it will be Hennepin County. And I'm actually fearful of the Vikings chances if the ballpark bill doesn't pass, and if it does. If the Twins get a new ballpark, anti-stadium individuals in Minnesota may get even more worked up than usual and really fight against a new Vikings stadium. I hope we get a chance to find out!
Posted by: Shane at May 5, 2005 3:17 PM
Shane, were you by chance at the Hennepin County legislature meeting when they voted?
Posted by: TwinsJunkie at May 5, 2005 8:25 PM
TwinsJunkie, no, I was not there. I had too many meetings to attend that day.
Posted by: Shane at May 6, 2005 12:42 PM
And what makes you think the Speaker and I were talking about the ballpark? He and I are on the same page.
Posted by: dan dorman at May 23, 2005 8:40 PM