May 31, 2005
Links of the day
The Return of the world-famous "Links of the Day." Enjoy.
- Fascinating web site about the plight of the California Condor. Check out the link about "Last days of the wild condors."
- Great article about "easter eggs" in Star Wars Epidsode III.
- Interesting take on the Jedi and why we shouldn't trust them: "[T]hey vote each other into the office, have license to kill, and seek to control galactic affairs. Talk about unaccountable power used toward secret and mysterious ends."
- Prophet Yahweh can make UFOs appear on his signal! He has had over 1,500 sightings since 1979! LSD anyone?
- A really good synopsis on podcasting by ABCnews.com and some great links to help get you started.
- Interesting article concerning Nintendo's strategy to compete with the new Xbox 360 and P3. It will include opening up their entire back catalog to be playable on the new system. That would be so cool.
- Kittenwar.com. May the cutest kitten win. This site makes the entire WWW worthwhile.
- Is this fake or is this real? Taking Star Wars themed merchandising a little far...
- Find the cheapest gas in the Twin Cities or other cities in the U.S. Very handy!
- Listen or read the greatest speeches in American history as determined by American Rhetoric. Very interesting list.
- This guy is obsessed with getting rid of dimes. I can't say I disagree with him.
- The people that stole Munch's "The Scream" and "Madonna" say they have destroyed the masterpieces. What a tragedy.
- Do not press the Big Red Button. You have been warned...
See you later...
May 27, 2005
Stadium revenue sources
Frightwig has written a thoughtful piece today discussing, again, his opposition to the current ballpark plan and his desire for Hennepin County to be able to capture some of the revenue a new ballpark is sure to create. Yes, this would be wonderful, there is no doubt about it. FW also writes that since most Twins fans are so rabid about getting a new ballpark, why don't we propose to pay for it through ticket taxes, memorabilia taxes, lottery tickets, bobbleheads, license plates, etc. Could it be done?
This is actually an idea that gets thrown out there a lot. Why don't we pay for a stadium with all of these funding sources? Why don't we put a tax on tickets, have those that benefit the most from the stadium pay for it, and finally put this issue to rest?
Truthfully I think all of these ideas should be used to fund a stadium. No doubt about it. I would play a lottery scratch game every day of the week and twice on Sunday if it meant a new Twins stadium could be built. However, there are a lot of problems with building a Twins stadium in this fashion. No more problems than building a Twins stadium with tax money, true, but problems nonetheless.
First of all, there is no way any of these possible revenue streams could raise enough money to pay off the debt on a new stadium. Not even if we combined them. The Minnesota Stadium Task Force of 2003 looked at all of these funding sources and came up with these figures (PDF) for the amount of revenue each could generate. Since these figures were put together in 2003 I will generously round up the amount of money I think we could reasonably expect from each of these revenue sources:
$3 million per year -- sales tax on food and alcohol in new stadium
$3 million per year -- 10% ticket tax
$3 million per year -- clothing and memorabilia tax (statewide!)
$2 million per year -- lottery scratch game (per game offered)
Keep in mind that I am rounding up the state's figures. That is only $11 millon per year. Obviously this is a far cry from the $28 million per year needed to retire the debt. What if we just increase the fees? I think the state was wise in putting these estimates together. I think this may be all that the citizenry of our state would be willing to pay in fees.
Another problem is the fact that these funding sources would be shaky at best. What if the Twins don't draw well one year? What if no one plays the lottery game? What if the money we were counting on from these funding sources just doesn't pan out? Who pays then? Neither the Twins or the state want to have to worry about that. Quite frankly, these possible revenue streams would not produce the kind of money that anyone could count on to get the job done.
Another group that wouldn't want to worry about the lack of "hard" money in this kind of scheme are the people lending the money to build the stadium. These funding sources are so shaky that the interest rates on the debt would probably be higher, which obviously would mean that the debt would be larger.
Finally, using all these funding sources is too complicated. If we have found anything out about our legislature in the last few years of this stadium debate, it's that they don't like complexity. Too many funding sources would mean too much bureaucracy and too much red tape. The Twins don't want that, and the state doesn't want that either.
The Hennepin County plan is not perfect. But it will 1) raise enough money to get the job done, 2) produce consistent revenue that everyone can count on year after year, 3) raise enough money to probably retire the debt early, and 4) it is relatively simple. That is why it has the best chance to finally get a stadium built.
Having said all of this, I still think Frightwig's idea has a lot of merit. We should use all of these funding sources regardless of the complexity that has dissuaded the team and the state from using these revenue streams over the years. However, it won't be enough. If we lived in a perfect world we could have the team pay for the rest. But Pohlad has already made it clear he won't do that. Needless to say, it is very frustrating.
Sigh. I am sick of this argument. I am sick of thinking about this. I just want it to be over. Build a stadium or don't build a stadium. Let's just make a decision.
May 26, 2005
Good riddens, Red
I don't have anything really coherent and/or well-planned to say about the recent sale of the Vikings, but I do have a lot of "stream of consciousness" type thoughts:
First of all, thank God (thank you God!) that this is the end of "Purple Pride." Gah! What a horrible catch phrase we've been tortured with all these years. Just think about it: "Purple Pride" ... it sounds like a phrase someone would use in a porn film. Zygi's first order of business should be to rid this phrase from the Vikings' lexicon. Anyone caught uttering this phrase ever again should be forced to listen to Chris Berman praise Brett Favre and Lambeau Field for 24 hours straight. This will be the last time this phrase is ever mentioned on the Greet Machine.
Secondly, when Red became owner he thought it would be a good idea to create a Vikings hall of fame. Not a bad idea, but what to call it? (Valhalla) It needs to be a powerful name that reaches back into Viking lore. (Valhalla) A word that maybe the real Vikings used to talk about the afterlife (Valhalla) where Viking warriors fought battles in glory for eternity. (Valhalla) I know, let's call it the "Ring of Honor." What the ?!?!?!? Note to Zygi: after you are done torturing anyone who utters the "phrase that cannot be spoken" please try to work the name "Valhalla" into some aspect of the franchise, perhaps even the "Ring of Honor." Naming the "Ring of Honor" as such when the name "Valhalla" was available was an injustice on par with something like re-naming Thor's hammer "Tappy." It just shouldn't have been done. (By the way, Thor's hammer is called Mjolnir. Try saying that three times fast you inebriated, illiterate cheeseheads! Skol Vikings!)
Another note to Zygi: for the love of all that is holy stop playing "Welcome to the Jungle." Just stop! My ears can no longer take the bleeding induced by this overrated song. Again, the Vikings need a song that maybe hearkens back to the real Vikings. (The Immigrant Song) A song that rocks and makes sense from the standpoint of "From the fury of the Norsemen, O Lord, save us!" (The Immigrant Song) A song that the Twins already use! The Twins!!! To recap: "Welcome to the Jungle" OUT; "The Immigrant Song" IN. Let's make it happen, Zygi.
Concerning the stadium, I love, love, love what I am hearing. Zygi obviously remembers the Viking teams of old. The teams that would chant "Odin, Odin, Odin" as they prepared to thrash the visiting opponent while the cold descended on the field. The teams that would play in the snow, the mud, the rain proving once again the greatness of the group of people known as "Vikings." It is time to bring this tradition back and I am just giddy over the thought of an outdoor stadium. Giddy! I've said this before, but the day they opened the Metrodome every male in Minnesota turned in his penis. You heard me. It is time to reclaim our manhood and start welcoming other teams, as Zygi has already said, to our nice, warm Minnesota winters. Build a stadium, Zygi, but build it without a roof. What a genius idea! It gets me pumped just thinking about it!
And speaking of the stadium, I am still of the opinion that Wilf is going to pay for the bulk of it himself. Let's recap what Wilf has already said. First of all, he has forcefully stated that he will never move the Vikings. "It will never happen" he has said. So, that bit of leverage with the state legislature is gone. Secondly, he is now stating that he prefers an outdoor stadium. The legislature will never agree to fund a $500 million venue, where the main tenant only plays 10 games a year, and where, due to its lack of a roof, it is basically out-of-commission for at least half of the year. Never. So, that bit of leverage is gone. Thirdly, as I've already mentioned in another post, Wilf is a Giants fan, and the Giants are paying for their own stadium themselves. I know Wilf has already said that public financing will be a part of the plan, but he could be talking about infrastructure or what have you. If Wilf wants to have an outdoor stadium, he is going to have to pay for it himself. And this, Vikings fans, is a very good thing.
UPDATE: It looks like Glen Taylor agrees with me:
Taylor said he believes Wilf will do a good job owning the Vikings, and he thought the New Jersey real estate mogul's call for an outdoor stadium was a smart move -- one he would have made as owner.
"I'll say that now," Taylor said. "I'm not sure how we'd have negotiated it. But all along our plan was an open-air thing to make the suites more valuable. And it was something we thought we could build ourselves that way."
Indeed, as the process of negotiation moved along, Taylor became more and more convinced that's how any new stadium would have to be done.
And that would have made any Vikings deal much more expensive than the $600 million price tag.
"I assumed the further we got in this, there was the possibility we'd have to build our own stadium," he said.
Who isn't excited? Who? I am pumped!
Finally, what does this sale do for the prospects of a Twins stadium? If I was a state legislator I would be thinking, "OK, we've got a new Vikings owner that is going to come begging at the state capitol as early as next year. We've got a workable Twins stadium proposal that will get that mess off our plate. Do we really want to deal with two stadiums next year at the same time?" I sincerely hope the legislature does the right thing, the smart thing, and takes care of the Twins (and the Gophers) this year. I honestly think that this Vikings sale gives the Twins stadium bill some momentum. Legislators don't want to deal with this anymore knowing that they will have to deal with the Vikings in earnest next year. In a short snippet yesterday I heard Sviggum say that stadiums for the Gophers and the Twins will be dealt with in this special session. Let's hope that this Vikings sale and a little strong arming from Sviggum can finally put this mess behind us.
That's all for now. See you soon.
May 25, 2005
Songs for a Desert Island VII
The seventh selection in my "Songs for a Desert Island" series will not focus on the lyrics. This is a break from tradition as most of the time it is the lyrics of a song I am most enamored with. What is the lyricist trying to say? What kind of meaning is hidden inside? Today's selection doesn't focus on the lyrics because, quite frankly, in this song it is difficult to understand what the singer is saying. This song has been chosen because of its aura, or the mystery surrounding the song (not to mention some really, really good music). The seventh selection for my Songs for a Desert Island is:
"Travelling Riverside Blues" by Led Zeppelin
I know what you are thinking: of all the songs by Led Zeppelin, why this one? What makes this one so special? Again, there is a certain aura around this song that cannot be denied. I challenge you to listen to Page's opening slide guitar work and not be immediately drawn in. This is the epitome of the trademark Led Zeppelin "hard" blues sound, also featured in such gems as "I Can't Quit You Baby" and "You Shook Me." Songs that are unmistakably blues oriented, but that also exude the crunch and puissance traditionally found in Led Zeppelin's work. What makes this song even more special though is that it is Led Zeppelin's homage to perhaps the most influential blues artist of the 20th century: Robert Johnson.
I would be surprised if you have never heard of Robert Johnson. Johnson's influence on rock music, especially rock music created during the 60s and 70s, is impossible to overstate. Cream, the Blues Project, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, the Red Hot Chili Peppers ... the list goes on and on of artists influenced by his work. Even Bob Dylan recognized Johnson's impact on his career (check out the cover of "Bringing it All Back Home"). Yet what is most remarkable about this is the fact that Johnson only recorded 29 songs, and only 12 of those songs were released during his lifetime. Needless to say, it is doubtful he repead the benefits of his fame while he was alive. What then can account for his longevity?
Adding to his aura is the rumor that Robert Johnson sold is soul to the devil for his guitar playing prowess. Apparently Johnson started out as a pretty crappy guitar player. In an attempt to get better, Johnson studied guitar with Ike Zinnerman in 1931, who said that Johnson learned how to play guitar while sitting on tombstones in a graveyard. According to legend, Johnson got so good so fast that it was openly speculated he sold his soul. Others add to the myth that Johnson sold his soul in Clarksdale, Mississippi, at the crossroads of Highway 61 and Highway 49. Others say it was in Rosedale at the intersection of Highway 1 and Highway 8. This may be corroborated in one of Johnson's most famous songs, "Travelling Riverside Blues," where he sings:
"Lord, I'm goin' to Rosedale, gon' take my rider by my side."
Whatever the case, it makes me wonder just what kind of a bargain he got for selling his soul. Legend has it that he was killed by poisoned whiskey, given to him by the husband of a woman he was showing too much affection towards. So, he sells his soul, records only 29 scratchy songs of questionable quality, and he is poisoned to death. As with most bargains with the devil, this one appears to have been a pretty raw deal for the human making the bargain. Most likely, though, the bargain was to make Johnson famous. And he is most definitely famous. Did the devil live up to his end of the deal? Maybe he did ...
Back to Zeppelin's cover of "Travelling Riverside Blues." Zeppelin's version is actually at least a couple of songs by Robert Johnson put together, including "Travelling Riverside Blues" and "Kind Hearted Woman Blues." Plus, it seems, Robert Plant has made up a few lyrics of his own. Again, that is what makes this unmistakably a blues song and a Led Zeppelin song all at the same time. Page's guitar work is fantastic as usual, highlighted by his slide work and his understated solo. Jones's baseline drives the rhythm forcefully and complements Page's lead beautifully, while Bonham's drums always seem to pound away at the perfect moment. Drumming for a blues song is definitely a challenge due this genre's penchant for changing tempo and Bonham was one of the best. The entire song really is a work of beauty, especially considering it was recorded live in the studio at the BBC.
I won't get into the lyrics too much because really they aren't that interesting and Plant takes turns moaning, shrieking, and warbling them in mostly an incomprehensible fashion. One part of the lyrics, though, that Plant made sure he sang with clarity was this stanza which I think says a lot about both Led Zeppelin and the blues in general:
Squeeze my lemon 'til the juice runs down my leg
Squeeze it so hard, I'll fall right out of bed
Squeeze my lemon, 'til the juice runs down my leg
I wonder if you know what I'm talkin' about
Oh, but the way that you squeeze it girl
I swear I'm gonna fall right out of bed
Hmmm ... yes, I think I do know what you are talking about. This is a stanza that Robert Plant did not make up. It is a part of Johnson's original version of "Travelling Riverside Blues" and as overtly sexual as it is today, it must have been eye-popping back in the 30s. But this is what the blues were about: love, sex, loneliness, relationships, disappointment. The blues were a microcosm of the human condition, especially in terms of the African-Americans that wrote the original masterpieces. Robert Johnson certainly wasn't afriad to tell it like it is and because of that his music has stood the test of time.
I was a huge Led Zeppelin fan in high school, and my friends and I thought this stanza was subversively delicious. Being the horny teenagers that we were (sorry mom), we quickly becamed so enamored with this lyric that we decided to act upon it. And no, not in the way you are thinking. We decided to "borrow" a street sign. Today I fully realize how stupid this was, especially considering what kinds of fines we risked just to get the stupid thing, but "borrow" that street sign we did. And I don't know if they've replaced the sign at the corner of Lemon Way and Prince of Wales Drive, but I'm sure they were surprised they had to. Pretty stupid, I agree. But sometimes a great song makes you do stupid things.
So, there you have it: "Travelling Riverside Blues" by Led Zeppelin. A song of mystery, aura, great musicianship, and it makes teenagers do things they'll regret as an adult. All in all, a great song for me to listen to on my desert island. Until next time...
May 24, 2005
Dan Dorman is a "yes"
I just received verification that Dan Dorman is voting "yes" for the Hennepin County ballpark bill! This is very, very good news, not only because it moves the bill closer to the magic "68" votes it needs in the House, but also because Dorman is a member of the powerful House Taxes committee. According to my calculations, we may be sitting at a 14-14 tie vote right now in that committee.
Thanks, Rep. Dorman for your letter and your committment to keeping Minnesota a "major league" state.
Posted by snackeru at 1:29 PM
I honestly have nothing to say
I think the nice weather has tapped by creativity/writing abilities. I have nothing to say about anything. Are other bloggers being affected like this? I note that on TwinsTerritory the amount of writing has seriously dropped off, my good buddy The Oracle of Cheese is taking a bit of a breather, Cheer or Die hasn't written anything for a couple of days, and Twins Chatter has been silent for a couple of weeks. Gleeman didn't even write anything today. Something is in the water, I guess.
Hmmm ... if you've got a minute you should stop over at Stick and Ball Guy's site and welcome him back from his honeymoon. I'll be doing that later on. Hawaii sure would be nice to visit.
Well, I'll probably write something around lunch. I've been planning on a new "Songs for a Desert Island" selection (the others can be found in music). This new selection will be by Led Zeppelin, but I would be surprised if anyone could guess which song is my favorite Zep song.
May 23, 2005
Not much to say
Not much to say, but I'll say it anyway. Revenge of the Sith was good. In fact, it was very good. It renewed my faith in the Star Wars franchices, and I enjoyed it immensely. While the acting was a little stilted in some cases, the story came together nicely and the action was top notch. Great fight scenes, wonderful visual elements, and all together just stunning eye-candy. If you go and see it you'll have to let me know if you agree with me on this though: I thought Anakin's decision to pledge his allegiance to Palpatine was a little abrupt. Maybe that's just me. My wife thought it was fine.
Favorite scence: when Kenobi and Anakin fly into General Greivous's ship and Kenobi vaults out of his ship doing a couple of mid-air flips and generally kicking butt ... I thought that was cool.
I'm starting to really like Zygmunt Wilf. I think he'll be fine as a Vikings owner, especially after I read that he has pledged not to move the Vikings. That is good to hear. I think his pledge is a little more solid, too, than when Red bought the team. You'll recall what Red said: "The Vikings belong in Minnesota." There is a lot of different ways to wiggle out of that statement. Wilf, on the other hand, when asked if he will move the Vikings said, "That'll never happen," and also according to Sansavere Wilf also said, ""There's no question (the Vikings are staying in Minnesota). Listen, no way (they're leaving). It's a storied franchise. It is Minnesota.'' Wonderful. OK, what about a stadium? Wilf had this to say:
Wilf has visited Minnesota several times, looking at potential sites for a new stadium. Wilf indicated it is possible he would purchase the land for the stadium site and said he would "not necessarily" ask the state for money to build the facility.
"We feel that it's important to work with everyone involved to get a world-class venue for our Minnesota Vikings,'' Wilf said. "We're exploring all options to achieve that result. Get the best venue for our team and the fans, that's our goal. We're committed to fund our share and we have to go into details before finalizing our exact plan. We're exploring all options (for funding). I am determined to find a way (to get a new stadium).''
"Not necessarily" ... that is very interesting. Does that mean he will still seek county money ala the Twins? Or is he considering how to fund this monster himself? I certainly hope so. No one wants the Vikings to go through what the Twins have gone through. The fact that Wilf is a Giants fan is, I think, a positive thing in regards to the stadium. If you haven't heard, the Giants are paying for their new stadium themselves. I can't help but think that Zyggy has been paying attention to this development. I sincerely hope he strives to emulate it.
Not much to report on the Twins stadium front. As you probably know, the Senate will have their first committee hearing for the ballpark bill this Wednesday. Other than that, I haven't heard much of anything new. If you have heard anything please feel free to share in the comments below.
May 20, 2005
Revenge of the Sith
I mean Emperor Palpatine
I'm going to see Revenge of the Sith tonight, and yes, I am very excited about it. The Star Wars movies have been a part of my life since I can remember and it is actually kind of sad to think this will be the end. So, in honor of my viewing of the final episode tonight I thought I would produce a list of my favorite Star Wars quotes of all time. Feel free to add your own if you think I've missed any, which is highly probable. You'll note, though, that I don't have any quotes from Episode I or Episode II. Besides the Yoda/Dooku light saber duel, I am of the opinion that these movies never happened. Do you hear me? THEY NEVER HAPPENED! On with the quotes:
- "You've never heard of the Millennium Falcon? It's the ship that made the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs." -- Han Solo
Yes! The infamous Kessel run. As you probably know, an average ship can only make this run in 14-15 parsecs. But the Millenium Falcon? 12 parsecs!! Amazing!
- "Laugh it up, fuzzball." -- Han Solo
I don't know why, I just get a kick out of some of Solo's one liners, especially this one.
- I find your lack of faith disturbing." -- Darth Vader
Speaking of one liners, Vader was full of them. I also like "You are a part of the rebel alliance and a traitor." There has never been a better movie villain.
- "Oh, I'm afraid the deflector shield will be quite operational when your friends arrive." -- Emperor Palpatine
Can you just hear him saying this? With all his slobbery derision? Fantastic.
- "Why, you stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf-herder!" -- Princess Leia
By far her best quote. Do you remember Solo's response? "Who's scruffy looking?" Great stuff.
- "No. Try not. Do... or do not. There is no try." -- Yoda
Great advice for any would be Jedis and also great advice in general. Who hasn't used this in a meeting or with your own kids? I know I have.
- "When nine hundred years old you reach, look as good you will not. Hmm?" -- Yoda
So true. If I was 900 years old I would look pretty nasty.
- "But I was going into Toshi Station to pick up some power converters!" -- Luke Skywalker
My favorite Star Wars quote. I just think it is hilarious. The whine. The pout. It is all there. It doesn't get any better. And the Academy Award goes to Mark Hamill!!!
So there you have it. You can try to argue, but it would be pointless. The Greet Machine has spoken. And if you are going to the St. Louis Park Mann theater tonight to see the movie and you see a short, bald man with a dark complexion dressed like Obi-Wan Kenobi ... well, that's not me. But I will be there!
People ... PEOPLE!!! Why must I be cursed with these thoughts? I cannot, no matter how hard I try, stop thinking about this stupid Twins stadium. I pray that this year this issue is finally resolved if for no other reason than just to retain my own sanity. Gah! Let's get to the news:
The legislative session ends on Monday. There is no way that the Taxes committee is going to tackle this issue before then. Of course, for weeks now most legislative pundits have been predicting a special session, and with Pawlenty's veto of the gas tax yesterday I think it is a given now. So, if this ballpark bill is to carry on it will have to be done within this special session. And the rules will slightly change. According to a document I found on the legislature's web site (PDF):
Each special session is a separate, free-standing meeting of the legislature, independent of the regular legislative session and any other special session. All legislation to be considered must be introduced as new bills. The legislature may not act on bills from the regular session or another special session.
Interesting. So, the ballpark bill will have to be re-submitted. Does this mean it will have to go through the same committees? Probably not, I would think it would go straight to Taxes. However, Taxes is going to be busy with more important matters (omnibus tax bills), as they should. So, is there a chance this bill could skirt by some of the legislative protocol and committee rules? I think there is. Again, according to the document above:
[T]he legislature usually uses expedited procedures to pass legislation. During special sessions, the House and the Senate often pass bills shortly after they are introduced. This is accomplished by declaring an “urgency” and suspending both the constitutional requirement that each bill be considered on three different days in each house and the requirement of legislative rules that each bill be referred to a committee when it is introduced. The two-thirds vote required in each house to expedite passage in this way usually is forthcoming, because legislators generally wish to curb the length of the session.
Now, I don't think the ballpark bill has a chance of getting 2/3 of the votes in the House. I'm not that stupid. The Senate? Maybe. However, what if in the special session the ballpark bill was introduced, sent to say the Ways and Means committee (given all the work the Taxes committee has to do), and passed there. Could the bill then move to the floor? Constitutionally, how many committees does a bill have to go through before it gets to the House floor? I'm thinking that in a special session the rules are a little different, perhaps.
Well, I think we are going to get a chance to find out. Should be interesting.
As Steve pointed out yesterday (thanks Steve!), there was a great StarTrib editorial concerning our favorite topic. I encourage everyone to read it as it does an excellent job of spelling out the reasons why a referendum on this issue continues to be such a bad idea:
Second, if a referendum were somehow compelled, the expense in time, money and injury to public discourse would far outweigh any benefit. Interest rates and construction costs are rising. Already a decade of delay has added $200 million to the project's cost. A televised, California-style campaign of shallow, vitriolic attacks shouldn't be the model that Minnesota follows on this or any issue. The inaccuracies spouted in public testimony on this matter have been stunning. This alone should be a clue to legislators that they are best qualified to cooly and factually assess this issue. We already have referendums every four years; they're called elections.
Beautiful. Just beautiful. Referendums, or as I like to call them "the enemies of progress," are just a huge cop out by our legislators. Do the job we elected you to do! If you don't want the job, please step down and we'll try to find someone who does. The inaccuracies spouted by (and believed!) by the public that are sure to precede a referendum would truly be stunning. Not to mention the fact that this issue would further divide our state and just plain be nasty. Who wants that?
Also, the paragraph above reminded me of another simple fact: would any other bill of this kind of importance survive the scrutiny (public and legislative) that ballpark bills usually have to endure? Never. If we treated all of our spending bills like we treat ballpark legislation nothing would ever get accomplished. Nothing could survive this kind of scrutiny! My point is there are pros and cons to almost every kind of legislation out there, especially legislation involving money. Sometimes you've just got to focus on the pros, like we do with most other bills, and get the job done.
Did you see that MLB has now given the Florida Marlins an ultimatum that by June 9 they must have their stadium financing in order? What MLB didn't to do was list any consequences for failure to meet this deadline. What could happen to the Marlins if they don't have a workable plan by June 9? A move to Las Vegas? Who knows. Personally, I think MLB is waiting to see what happens with the Twins. The options open up with both the Marlins and the Twins unable to secure stadium deals. The current MLB collective bargaining agreement (CBA) ends December 2006. After that, contraction becomes an option again. I can't believe MLB would try something like this again, but they've done some really stupid things before (like try contraction). Let's just pray that the Twins and Hennepin County can get the job done.
Gotta go for now. See you soon.
May 18, 2005
I have connections
Believe it or not, I know someone on the Taxes committee. Not an aide, or some pimple faced page, but a legislator actually on the committee. I know, amazing! I told him that I wouldn't give away his identity, but let's just say that he is "family" of sorts. I have held off on writing him because I knew that at some point I would want to harass him about the Taxes committee. What follows is some of my correspondence with him today.
At first I asked him some general questions about what he thinks the chances are of this bill making it out of the committee. He gave me some wishy washy answers and then he asked me how I knew that the vote would be so close. I admitted that I actually track this issue pretty religiously and that I have a web site devoted to it. I thought this would clam him up immediately, but he sent me this reply:
Then, off the record, I'll tell you this. Ross Kramer just came around shaking me down for votes in Tax committee. He had a hard list with checks by names and he did not look too happy. Nonetheless, Kurt Zellars and I just went down the list in the red book and the numbers look pretty tight to us. That said, the only one's lobbying on this right now is the pro side. The lawyer dude from Minneapolis sent me one e-mail. Nothing else. Zero. Zilch.
Ross Kramer is a Twins lobbyist. I am not surprised that he is not happy. I was also surprised to read that the anti-stadium people he has heard from is limited to Mr. Knight. And based on his comment about lobbying, maybe we should all take this opportunity to write the committee a few pro-stadium letters, hmmm? Next I sent him my list of yes/no votes on the committee and asked if he wouldn't mind verifying my predictions. He wrote back:
I think Vandeveer is a no. But I am not certain how accurate your list is on two - Abrams & Erhardt. You could be right, it's just that the jury is out on them in my book.
This completely blew me away. Abrams? As the former chair of the Taxes committee he has consistently crushed Twins stadium efforts over the years. So, obviously, the thought of Abrams actually favoring the Hennepin County proposal was almost too much for me to believe. I asked my contact to clarify just why he thinks Abrams will be a yes:
Something weird I heard a week back. But I was waiting for confirmation, so I put him in my "dunno" column.
Do'h! I think I'll keep Abrams in the "no" column. Anyway, while I don't have any good news in terms of the Taxes committee, I do pretty much have verification that things will be tough for this bill. That is unfortunate. I will be sure to write my contact more as time goes on to try to get his impressions concerning this issue. Again, I'm sorry that my news isn't more positive.
Finally, believe it or not, I have also been corresponding with Linda Koblick, the Hennepin County commissioner most opposed to this plan. Our correspondence has been very instructive and while I understand her views much better, unfortunately I have been unable to convince her to change her position concerning this proposal. Shoot. Anyway, just tonight she sent me an email which closed with this parenthetical statement:
(I think it will pass, btw)
So, take that for whatever it is worth. I know that little statement will give me enough hope to continue fighting the good fight. See you soon...
OK, remember how I said now was not the time for pessimism? That now is the time for action? Well, unfortunately, get ready for some pessimism. Oh boy, the breakdown of the Taxes committee does not look good. Not good at all. Unless Sviggum has something up his sleeve, the Twins ballpark bill will not escape this committee without a referendum attached, and it may not even escape this committee at all. Check this out (with the person's likely vote at the end):
That is 13 votes for the bill, and 15 votes against. You'll recall that in the Local Government committee a referendum amendment was narrowly defeated 10-9 even though the bill itself was passed with a 12-7 vote. So, even if this bill can squeak by the Taxes committee, I just can't see it getting by without a referendum attached. I hope I'm wrong, I pray I'm wrong, but this just does not look good Twins fans.
Now for some optimism. Many of my predictions are based on 10 years of stadium debate. While it is unlikely, it is possible that many of the legislators that have expressed anti-stadium rhetoric in the past are now in favor of this plan. This is certainly true of Nora Slawik who is not a member of Taxes, but is a legislator who has been anti-stadium and is now pro-stadium. So, of course, let's keep our fingers crossed.
However, and now for some more pessimism, while I have Anderson, Bernardy, and Vandeveer in the "Yes" column, I would not be suprised at all if they came out against this bill. Truthfully, all three of these legislators are a "yes/no" at best. I know, how depressing.
That leaves us with the question of what can we do? What can we do at this point to help this bill pass? Sadly, I'm not sure. I've watched two hearings now, and the same arguments for and against were bandied back and forth in both ad naseum. Legislators on both sides of the issue expressed disgust with the nit-picking, delay tactics, and grandstanding displayed at the hearings. However, regardless of all of this debate, the hours of arguing, I'm not sure a single legislator actually changed his or her mind on how he/she was going to vote before the committee even started. We've been at this 10 years. At this point, it almost seems that all of this pomp and circumstance is a huge waste of time. The legislators know how they are going to vote and all these hours of arguing isn't going to change their minds. Am I wrong or am I right?
Legislators for the bill recognize the value of the Twins can't be measured purely in dollars and cents and they want this problem solved. Legislators against the bill think Pohlad should be contributing more, or that Hennepin County shouldn't be footing the entire bill for a statewide asset. Most legislators, I would think, have already chosen a side. Does this mean I'm not going to write all these legislators (again) and tell them what I think? No, I'm still going to write, and I encourage you to do so also, but it almost seems that we are watching a play where the script has already been written. At this point we are just waiting for the end.
OK, what if the Taxes committee actually has the votes to pass the bill, but not without a referendum? In that case, we have to count on the Senate to pass the companion bill without a referendum. When the two bills meet up in conference committee Sviggum would hopefully fill the House committee with pro-stadium legislators, the referendum would be stripped off, and the bill would go back to both chambers for another vote.
What if the bill just doesn't pass the Taxes committee? Can Sviggum resurrect the bill on the House floor even without the backing of the Taxes committee? I'm not sure. I think so, but I just don't know for certain. Can anyone shed some light on this? I'm of the opinion the House floor can decide to vote on anything they want, but that this is an unlikely scenario.
And of course, a special session is a unique animal in itself. I have no idea what the protocol is in a special session, but I would think, again, that this bill could be resurrected there if necessary. Truthfully, it seems we are in for a long, painful few weeks.
In conclusion, I think this bill has enough behind it to pass a House floor vote. I do not think it has the votes, though, to get out of the Taxes committee. I'm going to do a little more research on that and hopefully I'll be back with some better news. Until later...
May 17, 2005
Local Government Committee: PASSED!
Just to let you know, the Hennepin County ballpark bill has passed the Local Government Committee! I don't have much time to editorialize right now, but let me say that it appears Lenczewski was strongly convinced by the other members to withold all her amendments and let the bill move on. She agreed, much to the dismay of committee chairman Mark Olson it seems. Before the vote Olson suggested that these amendments will all show up when the House floor debates this bill which will probably lengthen that process. Oh goody. Anyway, this is how the vote broke down:
12-7 in favor of the bill. I was off by three people: Paymar, Samuelson, and Cornish. Once again Paymar "passed" when his first chance to vote came up, saw that the bill would be approved, and then voted no. Seems like a case of "lack of backbone" to me. Samuelson has truthfully blown me away and Cornish ... well, even though he is from Mankato he still found a lot he didn't like with this bill.
I will update the Voter's Guide accordingly. On to the Taxes committee where we will surely see some real fireworks and delay tactics. I can just hear Krinkie licking his chops right now. See you soon.
Happy Syttende Mai!
Happy Syttende Mai everyone! If you didn't know, today is the Norwegian Independence Day, the day that Norwegians removed the shackles of oppression and told Sweden to stick it where the sun don't shine. Officially, this day remembers the signing of the Norwegian constitution in 1814, but most Norwegians understand the true significance of this day as a day of spite towards Swedes and the Irish. Norwegian animosity towards Swedes is justified given the years of brutal Swedish rule in our beautiful country, but we throw the Irish into our celebrations just for good measure given Norway's dominance over Ireland in medieval times. Most of the pictures of this celebration feature children in parades and eating ice cream, but private celebrations usually include Irish and Swedish flag burnings, hanging Eamon DeValera in effigy, and, even though Norway is a Lutheran country, Norwegians also pray that Gustavus Adolphus either be sent to or remain in purgatory for all eternity. Take that you Swedish jerks!
Nighttime celebrations usually feature pogrom style hunts tracking down anyone with the surname "Hanson" (given that most Hansons are both Swedish and Irish). Any Hansons that are found in Norway during this time certainly rue the day they ever set foot in our beautiful country. Tortures include forcing the captive to eat pounds of lutefisk, telling the captive Ole and Lena jokes until they cry, and forcing them to memorize a catalog from their precious IKEA stores before they are set free. That'll teach 'em!
So, if you haven't already, take a moment to celebrate the wonderful holiday of Syttende Mai. And if you are a Swedish-Irish person with the surname Hanson, there is no hope for you. You better just start running now. Nighttime is coming.
May 16, 2005
Local Government Committee: update
This committee is going to be a whole lot closer than I ever thought. First of all, there is no way they are going to finish tonight. They have 29 more amendments to deal with (most of them written by Lenczewski), and it is already 10:30. However, they just finished the biggest amendment of all: whether or not to include a referendum. Here is how the vote went (yes=for referendum, no=no referendum):
So, the referendum amendment (submitted by Horstein) was defeated 10-9. It was a little nerve racking as the votes came in. Paymar "passed" on the first go around, waited until he could see that their would be enough "no" votes to defeat the referendum, and then he voted "yes." Of course, I'm not sure about his true intent with "passing" but it sure seems like a sneaky way to both support and not support this stadium bill.
Anyway, a 10-9 vote ... I'm not sure this bill is going to get out of Taxes without a referendum. We'll have to take a closer look at that tomorrow or later this week.
Now, the committee is debating whether or not to adjourn for the evening. Stadium supporters seem to be indirectly accusing Olson of trying to adjourn the meeting and by doing so delaying a vote to get the bill out of committee. Unfortunately, there is just no way they are going to finish tonight. It seems the vote will be delayed no matter what, and of course, this will delay its chances to get to the floor of the House.
UPDATE 1: Paymar is submitting an amendment that requires the Twins pay 50% of the ballpark rather than the roughly 30% they are paying now. That amendment was defeated 11-6. The Twins have said that a referendum is a "deal killer." I wonder if they would also consider paying more to be a deal killer. I suspect so.
UPDATE 2: Paymar is now submitting an amendment to use the stadium naming rights to help pay for the ballpark. The Twins say 1) it really isn't that much and 2) they gave up so much during negotiations that they fought to keep the naming rights. The amendment was defeated.
Why I love the Dome
One of the truest things I have read during this never-ending stadium debate is that if the Metrodome is ever replaced, sooner or later we will miss it and long for the days when the Twins called it home. I know, it is hard to believe, but it is just human nature. We will all forget about it's negative qualities as we remember the good times and the things that made the Metrodome unique, and yes, even special.
So, as you already know, my son and I went to the game last Friday night. Since the game went into extra innings (thank goodness I brought my son's Gameboy) it gave me an opportunity to reflect on some of the things that make the stadium unique. Here is a list, in no particular order, of some of the things I know I will remember fondly of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome:
- The blast of air that pushes you out of the stadium after games. I just had to get that out of the way right off the bat as it is the most obvious.
- The urinal troughs. I don't care how bad I have to go, the minute I see 15 guys lined up at the trough I suddenly don't have to go as bad. In fact, I could stand there for an hour and never get out a drop. When they tear down the Dome I am actually considering trying to get a hold of a trough and setting it up in my basement bathroom just to freak people out who come over. You can't put a price on that kind of entertainment.
- The Baggie. Really, there should be no need to explain it, but that baggie is, for better or worse, the signature aspect of our baseball field. Minute Maid Park has the hill in CF, we have the Baggie. Bank One Ballpark has the hot tubs, we have the Baggie. It is truly disgusting, but I know we will look back on this and laugh.
- The Field Fare concession stands. I can imagine this conversation took place during the planning for the Dome. Planner One: "I know! Let's make really narrow concourses, far too few concession stands, and then let's staff those stands with volunteers who have never worked there before!!" Planner Two: "We shall dub these stands "Field Fare" and people will love them (even though they will stand in line for an hour just to get a hot dog)."
- The cup-holders built into the seats. Have you ever noticed that the rows at the Metrodome have 2 fewer cup-holders than is necessary if everyone has a drink? My son and I got two drinks while at the game Friday night. We were sitting in seats 1 and 2 in our row, and someone was already sitting in seat 3 when we got there. He was already using the cup-holder in front of him. My son put his cup in the holder in front of him. This, of course, left me with no cup-holder. Who is the genius that came up with this strategy?
- The speakers. Have you ever looked up at the speakers over the field? They are enormous. I can't believe that the teflon dome can hold these monsters up. Scary when you think about it.
- The curtain. What other stadium needs a huge curtain to cover up the mass of unused seats every game? How long before we need a curtain at the new stadium? Five years? Never? Hopefully we'll get a chance to find out.
- The sight lines. This is my view of the game from the third base line if I look straight ahead. Like I said on this picture, absolutely pathetic. I make it a point to never sit on the 3rd base line because of how sick I get of turning my head to the right. After nine innings it literally gets painful.
- The roof. I know I've already said that "I don't need no stinking roof" but it was cold Friday night. I was happy to have a roof over my head and a comfortable temperature of 72 degrees to enjoy the game in. I guarantee there won't be a person alive in Minnesota that won't miss that roof at some point.
- The football press box area. Also known as the Cambria Sky Box. I think it is hilarious that parties are held in this press area every game. I wonder if the Vikings get the money for selling out this area too.
- The Astroturf. This is something I already miss and look back on with nostalgia. That old field was horrible. I think Keith Millard once said it was like playing a game out on 494. Do you remember how during the last season on this surface they painted it with faint, white stripes to give it that "just mowed" appearance? Wow. How ridiculous.
- The noise. A new stadium for either the Twins or the Vikings will never be able to duplicate the ear splitting noise I have experienced in the Dome. Noise so loud it disorients you for two days after the game. That is what I call home field advantage.
- Lastly, I'll always remember the first time I walked into the majestic Metrodome and how, as a child, I was just stunned by the enormity of it all. It blew me away how big the place was, and how it was all enclosed in a single "room." I fell in love with the place immediately. I'm sure most of you had a similar reaction.
So, there you have it. I'm sure all of you could add your own. Of course, feel free to do so.
In closing, just let me say that you will note that some of the items above are good qualities and some of the items are bad qualities. Regardless, all of them together will provide Minnesotans with countless memories of what it was like to watch baseball indoors for almost 30 years. And while I hope our time in the Metrodome is coming to a close, I will look back on all of these memories of the building fondly.
May 13, 2005
Whoever You Are
I enjoy "one hit wonders," you know, the songs that were the only hit for an artist or band before they drifted into obscurity. Songs like "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell, or "In the Meantime" by Spacehog. Really good stuff, but I could never name another song by these artists. I'm sure you could come up with your own.
Another one hit wonder I really like is "Whoever You Are" by Geggy Tah. This is a great song built around the premise of someone thanking another person for allowing him to change lanes on the highway. The lyric goes:
All I want to do is thank you
Even though I don't know who you are
You let me change lanes
While I was driving in my car
Whoever you are
I wanna thank you
And the lyric goes on in the same innocuous fashion. It obviously is a simple song that makes you feel good and, at least in my case, it makes me want to let people change lanes while I'm driving in my car. You know what I mean? Why in the world are we so against people changing lanes?
A couple of days ago my brother-in-law and I were driving down 394 on our way home from work. My brother-in-law noticed that our exit was approaching so he checked his blind spot and started to move over into the right hand lane. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a Porsche Cayenne started honking and speeding up while trying to stop us from changing lanes. My brother-in-law was already half way over so he finished his lane change while we both looked behind at the car making all the noise and trouble.
The Porsche Cayenne sped up beside us. Now, any person in our position would probably expect the same thing we did, the infamous bird. However, this driver was a little more creative than that. Instead of the bird, he took his thumb and rubbed it against the rest of his fingers in the international sign for "money" and then pointed at himself. He did this twice and then drove away.
My brother-in-law and I were simply quite stunned by this. What on earth was he saying? The only thing we could come up with was, "You might have changed lanes in front of me, but I have more money." Or maybe just "I have more money than you." After we came up with this, it actually became very humorous. I'll give this jerk one thing, he was definitely creative with his attempted put-down, but seriously ... "I have more money than you?"
So, anyway, this little incident reminded me of Geggy Tah's "Whoever You Are" and really how much easier it is for all of us just to let people change lanes while we are driving. The jerk we dealt with was more put out by his own actions to stop us from changing lanes than if he had just let us move over.
In conclusion, if you are driving home tonight and someone tries to change lanes in front of you, just let them. In fact, let them and then give them a smile and a wave. I guarantee it will make you and the other driver feel better about everything, including life in general. Oh, and just as a rule of thumb, if you are one of those drivers that can't stand it when someone changes lanes in front of you, if you have to speed up to stop someone from changing lanes that is a pretty good indication you are at fault. Chill out.
Lastly (I guess the paragraph above was not the conclusion) I also think we should all try the new put-down introduced to my brother-in-law and me by the jerk in the Porsche. "I have more money than you." ... that is just priceless!
Well, I should have checked into this a little closer, but it looks like the Twins stadium bill moving to Committee on Rules and Legislative Administration is just part and parcel of the legislative process. Since the bill missed all three committee deadlines it has to be sent to this Rules committee so they can bless it to move on or whatever. I still wouldn't be surprised if Sviggum tries to circumvent the House Taxes committee, but I realize it is unlikely. Check out this Committee Deadlines page for more information.
10 days, people. That's all we have left to get this bill passed. Yep, that is a tall order, especially considering this bill has two more committees to go through.
Speaking of stadium bills in state legislatures, I don't know if you saw this, but the Florida legislature did not approve the Marlins proposal for a new stadium in Miami. You remember that bill, don't you? $192 million from the team, $60 million from the state in the form of a sales tax rebate, and the rest from Miami Dade County. The Florida Senate refused to agree to the $60 million from the state. Actually, the Senate President refused to even hear the bill on the Senate floor saying the bill didn't have the support to pass.
Team officials are not commenting until they "review their options." You can be rest assured they are watching Minnesota right now. If we can get something passed, I'm sure the Marlins will try something similar and take the state out of the equation. However, if we also fail then I think both the Marlins and the Twins have some interesting options. I think you know what I mean.
Well, I'll be going to the Twins game tonight with my son. As you know, tonight is the Hrbek fishing lure night, and I have the complete set of Twins fishing lures. So, I don't even have a choice. I have to go to this game. It should be fun and my son is very excited about it. Knowing him, though, his excitement will last about 1 inning before he is bored out of his skull. I'm going to have him bring his Gameboy just in case.
May 12, 2005
UPDATE: Shoot. As David points out in a comment below, this is probably nothing. Oh well, didn't hurt to dream a little.
Oh boy, people. I think Sviggum is trying to pull a fast one. If you haven't heard, the Twins stadium bill was moved to the House Committee on Rules and Legislative Administration. According to a web site I have found:
In the House, the Calendar for the Day is a list of bills the House Rules and Legislative Administration Committee has designated for the full House to vote on.
I think Sviggum is trying to move this bill to the floor for a vote. Someone tell me I'm wrong. Does anyone else have any other idea?
Local Government Committee: CANCELLED
The Local Government Committee meeting was cancelled today. Anyone know why? I also can't find if they have rescheduled it. Is this bill heading straight for Taxes? I wonder ...
If you were wondering where my post was today, I wrote something over at Twins Territory called Return on Investment. Not my best work, but it got my point across. Of course, my buddy David Wintheiser has already ripped it to shreds. It sure is nice to have someone I can count on!
See you tomorrow.
May 11, 2005
Local Government Committee: A Prediction
First of all, check out the Voter's Guide. Based on the outcome of the Governmental Operations committee, there are now 2 fewer anti-stadium legislators and 7 more pro-stadium legislators for a grand total of 63 known pro-stadium representatives in the House. Slowly but surely we are creeping up to the needed 68 votes. That is if my Voter's Guide is at all accurate.
Speaking of which, I will now attempt to use the Voter's Guide to predict the outcome of the Local Government committee:
Local Government Committee
|Chair: Mark Olson (R)||email@example.com||No|
|Vice Chair: Morrie Lanning (R)||firstname.lastname@example.org||Yes|
|Lead-DFL: Debra Hilstrom (DFL)||email@example.com||Yes|
|Bruce Anderson (R)||firstname.lastname@example.org||No|
|Mike Charron (R)||email@example.com||?|
|Tony Cornish (R)||firstname.lastname@example.org||?|
|Pat Garofalo (R)||email@example.com||Yes|
|Mary Liz Holberg (R)||firstname.lastname@example.org||No|
|Frank Hornstein (DFL)||email@example.com||No|
|Larry Hosch (DFL)||firstname.lastname@example.org||Yes|
|Ann Lenczewski (DFL)||email@example.com||No|
|Paul Marquart (DFL)||firstname.lastname@example.org||Yes|
|Michael Paymar (DFL)||email@example.com||Yes|
|Neil W. Peterson (R)||firstname.lastname@example.org||Yes|
|Jeanne Poppe (DFL)||email@example.com||?|
|Char Samuelson (R)||firstname.lastname@example.org||?|
|Bev Scalze (DFL)||email@example.com||Yes|
|Cy Thao (DFL)||firstname.lastname@example.org||?|
|Lynn Wardlow (R)||email@example.com||Yes|
So far, I can identify 9 yes votes, 5 no votes, and 5 unknown votes. Of those 5 unknowns, here is my prediction based on where they are from:Charron -- Woodbury: Yes
Cornish -- Mankato area: Yes
Poppe -- Austin: Yes
Samuelson -- New Hope: No (duh)
Thao -- St. Paul: Yes (my gut feeling)
So, based on my research, the districts the "unknowns" come from, and my gut, and accounting for probable errors in my computations I predict that the Twins/Hennepin County ballpark plan will escape the Local Government Committee with a 13-6 vote.
Could be more, could be less, but in the end I think this bill will pass through the committee. Agree? Disagree? Please let me know, but whatever the case, for the love of all that is holy write these legislators and tell them to support this plan!!!
I've already written all of them. And in my email (and I probably shouldn't have done this) I used the "legislative you" in a line that said, "Please put your hatred of a 90 year old man on the back burner, and start thinking about what is good for the state of Minnesota, the people of Hennepin County, and my family." I got an email back from Bruce Anderson that said, "I do not hate Carl Pohlad." That's it. Thanks for the info there, chief!
UPDATE: Thanks to Kevin for the great news that Bev Scalze has come out in favor of the Hennepin County ballpark proposal and will likely vote "Yes" on the bill during the Local Government committee hearing!!! Fantastic!
On to the next committee
I am a sick person. I can admit that. Rather than watch a thrilling victory by the Twins last night, I huddled in front of my computer to watch a 3 inch display of the Governmental Operations committee. Sorry for the lack of updates, but I wanted to watch more to just get a sense of the support (or lack of support) for the bill in the legislature. I came away feeling pretty good.
As you probably know by now, the bill passed through the committee on an overwhelming 17-5 vote. Obviously, this was pro-stadium committee. In fact, the chair of the committee, Kathy Tingelstad from Andover, opened the meeting by saying she was not only in favor of the Twins stadium, but also the Vikings stadium which would be built in her district's county if Anoka County ever gets a chance at the legislature. After I heard that, I was pretty confident this bill would get a fair hearing.
After that, the Twins, Hennepin County, and Finstad made their pitch for the plan. Then the committee heard a couple of hours of public testimony both for and against the plan. I was, of course, unimpressed with the testimony against the plan, and not for the obvious reasons. Mainly I was unimpressed because it seemed a lot of the opposition were only against this plan because they thought they had a better plan. What a humongous waste of time. Of the people that signed up to speak, 15 were for the plan, and only 8 were against.
Concerning the actual committee vote, of the 5 people that voted against the bill two were from Minneapolis, DFLers Phyllis Kahn and Diane Loeffler, and one was Mark Olson from Big Lake. More about him in a minute. However, Neil Peterson, a representative from Bloomington and the former mayor of Bloomington voted in favor of the bill. This was surprising and highly welcome. As you know, Bloomington is the home of the Mall of America and from what I have heard Bloomington representatives have been very critical of this plan calling it an attempt to grab money from the MOA.
Peterson's yes vote came at an interesting price, though. During the Hennepin County Commissioners meeting of last week, an amendment was successfully attached to use any excess money from the general sales tax to fund other county projects, such as keeping libraries open longer. Peterson's amendment successfully removed that commissioners meeting amendment. According to him, the tax should only be used to pay off the stadium so that the debt can be paid off quickly and his constituency won't be taxed on unknown projects that may be outside of his district. Fair enough. Peterson's amendment passed and I don't think the Hennepin County Commissioners will have a problem with it.
There was a lot of discussion of referendums, but Tingelstad successfully fought them off claiming that this kind of discussion is probably out of the purview of the Governmental Operations committee. Mark Olson tried his best to attach one, but it was defeated 13-9. That is the good news. Now, the bad news is Mark Olson is the chair of the Local Government committee where the bill is headed for next. In his capacity as chair of this committee, Olson will almost assuredly entertain every attempt to discuss a referendum for this proposal. In other words, this is where it is going to start getting tough.
And if this bill can get through Local Government unscathed, it will head for the ultra-nasty Taxes committee where Phil Krinkie will again do his darndest to attach a referendum to the proposal. Ouch ouch ouch. I have a glimmer of hope still, but only a glimmer. This is going to be tough.
During the next couple of days I hope to look at the membership of the Local Government committee and try to predict where the opposition will come from. And whether or not I think this bill can make it through the committee. Until next time...
May 10, 2005
UPDATE: The Governmental Operations Committee has PASSED the Twins ballpark bill! The vote was an overwhelming 17-5. The 2nd hurdle has been cleared. On to the Local Government Committee!
I'll talk about this more tomorrow. 17-5 ... that is impressive.
You know, you can watch the proceedings of the Governmental Operations committee yourself!
Right now they are getting into the amendments. Enjoy!
UPDATE 10:42 PM: They are still yapping. Argh! Get to the vote already! Phyllis Kahn ... I am seriously beginning to dislike her. So many stupid amendments. Mark Olson tried to slide a referendum requirement in and it was defeated 13 to 9. Phew!
UPDATE II 10:50 PM: Diane Loeffler is proposing an amendment that requires 80% fan occupancy for the life of the stadium. She admits that she knows nothing about what a reasonable occupancy rate would be. She hopes that this gives the Twins incentive to keep putting a winning team on the field regardless of owner. She says the county is making a huge investment, the Twins should also. Wow. The amendment was defeated.
Big day today
I couldn't sleep last night due to the fact that I read this article in the Strib before I went to bed. According to the article:
The plan for financing a new Twins ballpark faces significant opposition in the House of Representatives, according to a Star Tribune survey of legislators.
With more than three-fourths of House members responding, 42 said they favored a deal that would raise the sales tax in Hennepin County. Thirty-six opposed it, and 27 members said they were undecided. The proposal needs 68 votes to pass the 134-member House.
Ugh. That is disheartening. Let's try to look at it another way, though. There are 134 members in the House. 42 have come out in favor of the plan, 36 are opposed, and 27 are undecided. OK. That leaves 29 legislators unaccounted for. Add that 29 to the 27 that are undecided, and you get 56 legislators that we still don't know about. The bill needs 68 votes to pass which means we need 26 more "yes" votes, or roughly half of the 56 legislators that still are up in the air. Is that possible? Can Finstad (the chief author of the bill) muster up 26 more votes out of 56? I certainly hope so. In fact, I still think he can.
And, unless you live under a rock, you probably know that the stadium bill will be heard today by the Governmental Operations and Veterans Affairs Committee beginning at 4:30 this afternoon. This is the second step for this bill, and our first indications of whether or not 1) it has even a small modicum of support and 2) if it can make it out of committees without a referendum.
I am guessing that two big things will happen with this bill during committee meetings. The first is every committee that hears it will try to attach a referendum to the bill. I have no doubt of that. I also expect some legislators will try to attach another tax onto the .15% general sales tax, or even increase the tax to be something like 6 cents on every $20 purchase in order to fund education, or police, or health care also. I can't say how I feel about that. I personally hope that the bill makes it through this committee unscathed and "as is" but I would be surprised if something doesn't happen to it. We'll just have to keep our fingers crossed.
I'll be watching and taping the proceedings so I should have a good sense of what kinds of hurdles the bill will have to overcome next (if it even makes it through Governmental Operations!). What a nerve racking day!
Finally, and I think this is just hilarious, Rep. Anne Lenczewski has submitted a bill to rename the Minnesota Twins to the Hennepin County Twins. Sigh. Can we just solve this problem and move on?
Endorsed by Linda Koblick
I got an email from Linda Koblick this morning. If you'll recall, Linda Koblick is the Hennepin County Comissioner most opposed to building a new Twins stadium in Minneapolis. Well, she would say she is opposed with the way this proposal is being "railroaded" through, and that she'd like more public input, but I'll say more about that in a bit. Here is what she said in her email to me:
Thank you for providing a very easily-accessible forum for information on the stadium/Twins, and easy directions on legislator and stadium bill information/contacts. My goal? Providing opportunities for input, from public hearings to emails like the many received from your site. Thank you! (and be nice to my staff - they came thru) I must admit, I like your site - it provided me with the stadium bill! Now that's service...
Did you catch that? Linda Koblick likes the Greet Machine! Even stadium opponents can't deny the juggernaut of wisdom that is this web site! Special thanks to Ms. Koblick for taking the time to answer my email. She certainly didn't have to do that. Now if I could only change her mind...
If we take her comments at face value, that she is only trying to give the public more opportunity to weigh in on this issue, and learn more about the proposal, then I would say her cause is noble. However, the public has been dealing with this issue for 10 years now. I dare say most of the public has already chosen a side regardless of what the particulars of this specific proposal are. In fact, the people cheering for Koblick at the meeting where this proposal was approved weren't cheering because Koblick was fighting for more time for the public to weigh in, they were cheering because they want to see this proposal defeated.
The proposal is simple. $125 million from the Twins, and the rest from Hennepin County in the form of a .15 general sales tax on everything but clothing, medical supplies, and food. That tax will generate $28 million a year. The stadium will not be owned by the Twins, but a Ballpark Commission, and the operating costs (upwards of $10 million a year) will be paid by the Twins.
The Twins will receive all game day revenue and the revenue from the stadium naming rights. The people of Hennepin County will receive a beautiful new stadium, a revitalized Warehouse District, hundreds of construction jobs, a family friendly and affordable entertainment option, beautiful evenings watching a Minnesota tradtion, out-state and out of state tourists visiting by the millions and all spending money in the county, and the pride of knowing that we finally solved this problem so we can all move on with our lives.
I'm ready. How about you?
I know that today is a big day in terms of the stadium bill. I'll be discussing that more later.
May 9, 2005
I don't remember much of the old Met. I went to a bunch of games there, and the little snippets of games I do remember I remember fondly. However, when I listen to people talk about the old Met today, I am led to believe that it was always cold, rainy, or snowy, and when they finally did get a chance to play it was usually a double-header (or triple header!) due to all the cancelled games.
Besides the complaint of "No subsidies for billionaires!" the complaint I hear the most concerning the new Twins ballpark is the complaint that, for now, it will not be built with a roof. It won't even be built "roof ready." As the plan sits right now, it will be an open air stadium now and forever. And as much as I would like a roof, I honestly don't understand what all the complaining is about. Baseball was meant to be played outdoors, plain and simple. If the new ballpark is built without a roof, I won't be upset at all.
The big reasons to build a roof on the new ballpark are because it is cold and rainy (possibly snowy) in April, and it is cold in October. How can the Twins 1) draw enough fans, especially out-state fans, when there is no guarantee the game(s) will be played, and 2) how can the Twins compete when no big name free agents are going to want to play in such a cold place? I want to know, are these legitimate concerns?
To get to the answers of these questions I decided to look at the weather of 4 major league cities with climates comparable to the Twin Cities: Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, and Boston. You'll note that every one of these cities has an open air ballpark. How do they survive? Is the weather in these four cities that much better than the weather in the Twin Cities? By focusing on the average temperatures in April and October in these cities, the average precipitation over the years in April and October in these cities, and the average yearly rainfall in these cities, I think I get to the answer:
|Apr. Hi/Lo||Oct. Hi/Lo||Apr. precip||Oct. precip||Ave. year rain|
|Boston||56/40||63/47||4 in.||3 in.||42 in.|
|Chicago||59/39||63/42||4 in.||2 in.||35 in.|
|Cleveland||58/37||62/44||3 in.||3 in.||36 in.|
|Detroit||58/37||62/41||3 in.||2 in.||34 in.|
|Minneapolis||56/36||59/39||2 in. (+ 2 in. snow)||2 in.||29 in.|
According to this data, Minneapolis is definitely colder, both in April and October, but really, not by very much. In addition, this data definitely shows that Minneapolis has about the same amout of precipitation as these cities in April and October. However, Minneapolis has a relatively small amount of participation per year compared to these other cities. As you can see, on average Minneapolis gets about 29 inches of rain per year. Boston gets 42 inches of rain per year. What are we so worried about rain for?
Since all of these cities get more rain than Minneapolis, you would think that they must have to postpone a lot of baseball games due to inclement weather. Actually, no:
People, I don't know how to break it to you, but that is it. On average these cities have to cancel about 2-3 games per year. I don't know about you, but I'm not really concerned about that. In fact, I think I might enjoy a couple of double-headers a year. Am I missing something? Why are we so insistent on a roof? Again, I wouldn't mind one, but is it really that necessary?
Finally, I thought, maybe I am missing something. Maybe I should look at the weather on specific days in a particular city and then compare the weather in Minneapolis on those same days. Since we heard so much about Detroit having to cancel games due to snow this year, I decided to look at Detroit's home schedule in April last year. Then I looked at the weather in Minneapolis on those same days:
|Date||Detroit Hi/Lo||Minneapolis Hi/Lo|
|April 8, 2004||53/37||54/37|
|April 10, 2004||53/36||43/30|
|April 11, 2004||46/35||44/25|
|April 13, 2004||46/35||59/29|
|April 14, 2004||59/36||70/41|
|April 15, 2004||59/39||74/47|
|April 23, 2004||63/42||63/43|
|April 24, 2004||54/44||57/39|
|April 25, 2004||73/44||63/41|
|April 27, 2004||46/34||60/33|
|April 28, 2004||69/32||91/49|
|April 29, 2004||80/60||77/44|
Again, what are we so worried about? The more I look at this data, but more I wonder why we are so concerned about a roofless stadium. According to the table above, the high in Minneapolis was colder than Detroit on only 4 days, and on one of those days it was 77 in Minneapolis! You know what? I think I can handle this.
In conclusion, don't get me wrong, I would love a roof on the new stadium. It would definitely make that handful of games per year a little more comfortable. But I certainly don't think it is a make or break deal. In fact, I think we should all stop whining like a bunch of [insert derogatory put-down here], recognize we live in Minnesota, and start figuring out how we can use our not-so-unique weather to our advantage.
May 8, 2005
I'm not usually a superstitious person. I don't knock on wood. I don't throw salt over my shoulder. I don't care about walking under ladders, breaking mirrors, or black cats crossing my path. Having said all that, though, there is one piece of superstition that I can never ignore, and I'm ashamed to admit that it fascinates me more than it should. What is this piece of superstition you ask? It is the superstition of "whatever song comes on next." Never heard of it? Allow me to elaborate.
Whenever I listen to the radio, or my iPod, I like to say, "Whatever song comes on next will determine how the rest of my day goes." Or I like to be more specific sometimes by saying something like, "Whatever song comes on the radio next will dictate whether I go to Home Depot or Menards to buy some window caulk." As you might imagine, deciphering the meaning of some of these songs can be quite a challenge. Does the fact that the next song is "Black Dog" by Led Zeppelin mean I should get a haircut today or not? Or does hearing the song "Clocks" by Coldplay mean I will finally beat Cheesehead Craig at a bet? Like I said, the message these songs are trying to send can sometimes be almost impossible to figure out, but that doesn't stop me from seeking the truth within.
Over the course of my life "whatever song comes on next" has had some surprising results. For example, in my sophomore year in college my roommate (Curt in Grand Forks) was in a serious relationship when I said, "Whatever song comes on next will determine your relationship with Emily." The next song to come on was "Evil Woman" by ELO and they broke up a few weeks later. I know, spooky!
Another example was when I asked my wife our on our very first date. We were both working at a local department store during the summer. I was a stock boy, and she was a cashier, and I had pretty much been stalking her for a couple of months. I would position myself in places I knew she would be so I could talk to her, but I would always chicken out when she came walking by. So, one day I said to my stock boy colleagues, "Whatever song comes on next will determine whether or not I ask Molly out on a date." They all said, "Yeah, yeah" because they knew that I had been wanting to ask her out for weeks but I could never muster the courage to do so. Anyway, the next song that came on was "Rag Doll" by Aerosmith. I know, you're probably thinking that I'm a sicko, but the lyric that struck me as I was listening was "Don't mind, come on up and see me." I was on the first level of the store, and Molly was on the second. I turned white as a ghost and said, "This is it." I literally ran up to the second floor (because I knew if I didn't run I would turn around) and I made it to her counter. I was a little winded from running and while I was panting I blurted out, "Do you want to go out on a date?" She was a little perplexed by me since I was so winded, but she still said, "Sure. When do you want to go out?" I said, "Tonight." Awestruck by my suave demeanor she agreed and the rest, as they say, is history. I owe 11 years of marriage and 3 kids to the song "Rag Doll" by Aerosmith. Amazing, wouldn't you say?
A more touching example occured when my first son was being born. A radio was playing in the operating room (it was a c-section) and I snuck in a "Whatever song comes on next will ..." Well, I didn't know what, but I knew it would be meaningful. Sonny and Cher's "I Got You Babe" came on as they put him into my arms for the first time. I thought that was appropriate.
So, why am I telling you all of this? For one thing, it is a fun game to play and the results can sometimes be surprising, but I have something more important to tell you. I played "whatever song comes on next" last Thursday as I was walking home from the bus stop. I had my iPod on shuffle so I said, "Whatever song comes on next will determine whether or not the Hennepin County proposal will result in a new Twins stadium." I waited patiently, the song that I was listening to ended, and the next song slowly started to play. At first I couldn't make it out, but then it dawned on me what song I was hearing.
It was "Scarlet" by U2. And if you know the lyrics of this song, you know that this is indeed a very good sign! I know I shouldn't give it too much credence, but based on my previous results with this little piece of superstition I can't help but be hopeful!
If you feel up to it, give "whatever song comes on next" a try. If something interesting comes on, or even happens, please feel free to share! Until next time...
May 6, 2005
Guest blogger: SBG
Good news! Today you won't hear any stadum ramblings from me. I know, you were probably thinking, "When is this guy going to shut up about stadiums?" Well, today is that day. However, its not because I don't have anything else to say, it is because someone else has offered to say it for me!
Today's Greet Machine entry is written by the world famous Stick and Ball Guy. Stick and Ball Guy writes some amazing entries about the Twins and T-Wolves over at his web site and I encourage everyone to check it out daily. SBG is also getting married in about a week. How he found the time to write this I will never know, but I greatly appreciate it.
I have never met SBG. I probably wouldn't even recognize him if we passed each other on the street. Nonetheless, SBG is a good friend of mine. Thanks for this great entry, SBG!
Hello, Greet Machine readers, I am the Stick and Ball Guy. I have my own little website where I provide semi-serious coverage of Minnesota Sports. During the time that I have written my site, I have enjoyed reading Shane’s Greet Machine, and have really respected his dedication to stadium projects in Minnesota. I have also greatly appreciated his contributions to my site, so I wanted to give something back to him. Thus, I am writing on his site about stadia.
About fifteen or so years ago, I was living in Fargo, ND and there was a proposal to build a domed stadium in Fargo. The stadium was ostensibly for NDSU football, but also would be for various events such as concerts, boat shows, basketball games, and so forth. The city of Fargo had a referendum on the domed stadium, and as a citizen of the city of Fargo, I voted “NO.” I thought it was a stupid idea and I was outraged at the half cent sales tax that would be levied within the city to pay for the project. I derisively referred to the project as the “half-cent dome.” I argued why not fix the streets! This money could be used for much better purposes!
And then, the Fargodome opened. While it is arguably not been all that great for NDSU Football (another column topic), there is no question that the Fargodome has been an enormous success for the city of Fargo. Before the Fargodome, the city had no viable venue for concerts. After the Fargodome, I saw the Rolling Stones in North Dakota. I saw basketball games (including KG's first exhibition game -- he was a star even then), concerts, football and yes, a boat show. I realized that the Fargodome was a fantastic idea and I was quite wrong to have voted against it.
I see the proposed Twins stadium in much the same light. No, it won’t have quite the same impact on Minneapolis as the Fargodome had on Fargo. (Of course, the tax is not the same, either,) But, it is undeniable that having baseball games played outdoors is a positive contribution to the quality of life. Some people might say that baseball isn’t important and not worthy of public money. I say you are wrong. Just as seeing the Stones in Fargo in the middle of a cold and dreary winter made life in North Dakota just a little more tolerable, enjoying a world class sporting event outdoors in the most beautiful time of the year in Minnesota boosts the quality of life in this great city. Sometimes, you have to spend money for the common good. And this is one of those times.
I think about how great the light rail has been for the city. Before it was finished, those who would rather see Minneapolis be a cold Omaha cried and moaned about what a boondoggle it was. As I drove along Hiawatha Avenue prior to the completion, I saw opponents of the light rail decry the project as “social engineering” on billboards. Then a funny thing happened. The light rail opened and people started riding it. A lot. And the criticism stopped. Thursday night as I rode the train from downtown Minneapolis to Fort Snelling, I had to stand up the whole way – because it was packed. At 7:00 PM. People love it. Just like people will love a new Twins stadium.
I read a beautiful quote about Phil Krinkie, state legislator and opponent of progress in Minnesota. Someone, and I forget who, when asked about Krinkie’s opposition to the light rail said, “if it were up to him, we wouldn’t have paved roads.” I laughed because it reminded me of my youth. I grew up in a small town without paved streets. Every time it rained, the street in front of our house turned into a marsh. When it didn't rain, the streets were dry and dusty -- until they oiled the streets down. That's right they actually applied oil to the streets. (Great for the drinking water, I'm sure.) Yet, people in the city stubbornly refused to build paved streets. The mayor, a reactionary if there ever was one said, we don’t need paved streets because the city has “natural drainage.” Friends, the marsh in front of my Dad’s street belied that comment. Eventually, the reactionaries were defeated and we got paved streets. I’ll never forget how the first time it rained after the streets were paved – the water ran into the storm sewer and the street wasn’t a marsh but rather quite drivable. And I thought, why did anyone ever think this was a bad idea? Just like the Fargodome and the light rail, the loud-mouthed critics were silenced.
This is what this stadium debate is about. Do you want to invest in the city? Do you want to have facilities and infrastructure to make this a major league city? Or do you want to be a reactionary? If the stadium is not built, no more money will go to education, no more money will go to (fill in the blank). Those arguments are stale and beside the point. What we need in this state are leaders, who will make the Twins stadium a reality. Who will expand the light rail. Who will spend on education. As someone who pays a lot of income tax – more than most people – I say if you need a little more from me, I’ll give it. Why? Because I want to live in a place that I can be proud of. I want to live where I can get around and where I can enjoy life doing things like going to baseball games outdoors. I don’t want to live where the proverbial paved street is deemed unnecessary.
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!
May 4, 2005
I've got a great article for all of you to read:
Truly, I wish I could have written this. It does a fantastic job of laying out all the issues of the Hennepin County plan. I soaked it up like a sponge. I'll comment on it later, but for now I gotta go.
May 3, 2005
Ballpark vote: PASSED!
Finally, they voted for the ballpark proposal and it PASSED. Here is the breakdown of the vote:
Dorfman: No (shoot!)
No surprises there, I guess. I can't argue with what Gail Dorfman said at the end, that it would have been nice if the Twins would have paid more. She also would have preferred if it was a seven county metro tax. Again, I agree with that. Stenglein then made some great comments regarding "thinking big" and how there have been big projects at the county before, highways, and bridges, etc. Big projects make the county a great place to live. Amen. McLauglin also spoke to how he sees a stadium as comparable to building the Convention Center, and how a stadium is essential for having a thriving downtown and a healthy economy in the downtown area. Well said. Johnson said it best, though. Building a ballpark is not an either or proposition. We can both build a ballpark and fund necessary county services! Amen, amen, amen! Building a ballpark will not take health care away from Hennepin County citizens! Building a ballpark will make Hennepin County an attractive place to visit and live. Thank you Commissioner Johnson!
Opat spoke last. Essentially he said the county has stepped up before to take care of essential Minnesota needs: HCMC, the LRT, highways 62 and 169. The county will also step up and keep the Twins in Minnesota. Everyone: my hero, MIKE OPAT!
That's it. The first step in a long process, to be sure, but I am thrilled that this proposal is going forward. Go Twins!
Ballpark vote: update
I am watching the Hennepin County hearings right now. They still have not voted on the proposal. And remarkably the Comissioners are still being pretty cordial with each other. They are right now voting on amendments. The amendment to study the feasibility of using the garbage burner's excess energy to heat the stadium just passed.
It appears to me that Koblick, Steele, and Dorfman are all resigned to the inevitability that the ballpark proposal will pass.
I'll keep you updated. Hopefully the final vote will be happening soon.
UPDATE: Scratch that, Koblick is totally grandstanding. She is fighting every amendment seemingly just to be difficult. She just voted no on an amendment that would require the Twins to pay $250,000 a year on youth activities and sports in Hennepin County. Jerry Bell even got up and agreed to the amendment, since it would be handled throught the Twins Foundation, and she still voted no because their weren't enough "details." Sheesh!
UPDATE II: McLaughlin just put in an amendment to use any excess funds/revenues to help keep libraries open longer both in the Hennepin County system and the Minneapolis systems. Way to go McLaughlin! Koblick and Steele of course voted no because, I guess, tying libraries to stadiums is not "transparent." So, here we have possibly some extra money to fund libraries, and Koblick seems to think this is evil. Of course, it is more complex than I am making it, but libraries are horribly underfunded in Hennepin County. I'm sure they will be thrilled with this amendment.
UPDATE III: Koblick now wants to strike the statement "Twins fans deserve a new ballpark with good site lines" from the Principles of Agreement. It is a nice statement, but I guess we don't deserve one.
UPDATE IV: It is obvious Koblick wants to delay this vote. She has mentioned that she is prepared to talk for another 4 hours. Ugh. I am amazed, and slightly impressed. I'll admit it. But in the end her efforts will be proven futile.
UPDATE V: Steele wants an amendment to have at least 7 public hearings in each of the Hennepin County disctricts on this proposal. Koblick voted yes. All others voted no including my own Commissioner Gail Dorfman. My respect for her is increasing. She just might do the right thing. The amendment didn't pass.
UPDATE VI: They are working on the details of another amendment, but it has been stated that this proposal is expected to raise $1.1 billion and the tax will last until December 2036. Wow. That is impressive.
UPDATE VII: Amendments seem to be over. I think they are about to vote.
May 2, 2005
Write the Commissioners
Enough discussion about the Hennepin County proposal. Enough debate over whether or not the ballpark should have a roof. Enough of the broken record analysis done by your's truly. From now until late this afternoon, it all comes down to one thing:
Convincing the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners to pass their own Twins ballpark proposal.
If you haven't done so already, and I would be shocked if you haven't, write the Hennepin County Board right now and tell them that you support this plan. You can write them separately:
Mike Opat -- One of the few politicians in Minnesota to have a pair.
Randy Johnson -- Another strong supporter and Chair of the Commission.
Mark Stenglein -- Helped put the pressure on Rybak to support this important plan.
Peter McLaughlin -- The swing vote. With Rybak coming out in favor of the plan I think McLaughlin will come out strongly in favor tomorrow (given that McLaughlin is running for mayor of Minneapolis).
Linda Koblick -- The strongest opposition. Would rather the county loses the Twins than support a plan that will bring in millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs into the county. Go figure.
Penny Steele -- Koblick's lackey. Get this, Steele complained that she has had little time to look at the proposal, but she still admitted that she would vote against it. Way to give it a fair shake, Commissioner Steele.
Gail Dorfman -- Sigh. My own commissioner. Why must I be cursed with these wishy washy politicians lording over me? Let's see if she has the guts to do the right thing tomorrow.
Or, you can write them all together. Just click on this link. Be sure to label your subject line something like "Twins stadium YES!" so that they can readily see where you stand on the issue. I've heard a rumor that they are literally going to count up the yes and no responses they have been receiving over the past week.
So, it all comes down to this. Please do your part. Write the comissioners NOW. And if you already have, write them again. As a Twins fan this should be your number one priority: making sure the Twins remain a part of the fabric of life in Minnesota.
Few want to pay for anything
Yesterday's Star Tribune article concerning the Minnesota Poll was entitled, "Few want to pay for ballpark." I think a more accurate title would be "Few want to pay for anything." You ask the average Minnesotan any question regarding paying for something costing upwards of $500 million and they are going to say no. Take the LRT, for example. As I said below, if the LRT would have been subject to a referendum we would have been inundated with negativity towards the project and most likely your average Minnesotan would have coupled that negativity with the price tag and voted no. People would have said, "Why should we build a single rail line when we are cutting school budgets!" or some nonsense like that. However, now, thanks to the foresight of some of our legislators, we have a thriving, successful light rail line that will only keep on expanding.
So, the Minnesota Poll shows that your average Minnesotan opposes the Hennepin County plan. 54% to be exact with 42% approving. Hmmmm ... I've seen numbers similar to these before. A few years back the Minnesota Poll also conducted a survey like this regarding the "conceal and carry" law. Again, according to the Star Tribune, 55% of Minnesotans were against this law passing and felt that "conceal and carry" would make our state more dangerous. Now, I'm not here to debate the merits or problems of "conceal and carry" but the outcome is not in dispute. Regardless of the strong opposition to this bill, it still passed.
Sid Hartman today does a better job than I ever could in arguing against taking the results of this recent Minnesota Poll too seriously:
Well, I am not a professional pollster, but I would have added a couple of questions that I think are important.
The first question I would ask is: Would you rather have a Hennepin County-wide sales tax of 0.15 percent to build the stadium, or allow the Twins to leave here and lose baseball?
Believe me, if this stadium plans falls through, the Twins are done fighting for a stadium and the owners will either cut the payroll to $25 million from the present $56 million or sell the team to somebody who might move it.
Second, I would ask if the people polled knew the state income tax paid by the Twins and visiting players, combined with the additional sales tax earned, could run up to an estimated $11 million a year in a new stadium. The sales tax from building materials also would provide a lot of money to the state.
Third, I would have asked if the people polled understood the number of jobs a stadium costing $478 million would provide.
Fourth, I would ask if there should be a referendum on the stadium, when there wasn't one when the Minneapolis City Council spent $4.7 million moving the Shubert Theater and gave $35 million to the Guthrie Theater and other government-sponsored projects.
Then I would ask if the people polled had any idea of the extent of the crime problems downtown and what 81 home games would do to improve that situation. Those games would attract more business downtown.
And last but not least, I would have made sure I polled some of the nursing homes and some shut-ins and get their reaction on how different their lives would be if they didn't have 162 Twins games to listen to on radio and watch on television.
I cannot argue with the results of this poll. The majority of Minnesotans are against the Hennepin County plan to build a new Twins stadium. However, the majority of Minnesotans are ill informed, selfish dunderheads who don't understand the ramifications of not supporting this plan. Again, I'll trust the Speaker of the House, the Senate Majority Leader, the Governor of Minnesota, and the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners to do what is best for me and my family. For the love of all that is holy, do not give this decision to the average Minnesotan.
Before you do anything
Before you do anything today, please take a moment to write the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners and let them know how you feel about keeping the Twins in Minnesota. The Hennepin County Board votes tomorrow at 1:30 on whether or not they will go forward with their plan, and while it looks like they have enough votes to pass a few more emails from the plan's supporters can't hurt. Even if you don't live in Hennepin County, even if you don't live in Minnesota, please take a moment to write these people. It does make a difference.
Also, again, if you are writing your legislators and you get an interesting response please feel free to share that response with all of us here. Please submit a comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And speaking of interesting responses, I got this response from the other SLP Representative Steve Simon:
Thanks a lot for your e-mail message. I really apprciate your input. As for the latest Twins proposal, I'm impressed with what I have seen and heard so far. The Twins clearly need a new stadium. The virtue of this latest plan is that it does not require state general fund money, and it imposes a very small tax. Still, I will carefully review the numbers. I want to make sure that taxpayers are getting a fair deal. As always, please feel free to contact me about any issue, idea, or concern.
That sounds great. Steve Simon replaced the anti-stadium Jim Rhodes so to have a pro-stadium rep now filling that seat is wonderful!
Finally, my own Hennepin County Commissioner is a liar. Check out this quote in the Pioneer Press:
Meanwhile, Hennepin Board members said Friday that the Twins e-mail campaign was reaching its targets.
"For the first two days, it was 100 percent against,'' board member Gail Dorfman said of citizen reaction after the board discussed the stadium deal last Tuesday. "Today, it's almost all in favor of the Twins. If I go away from my e-mail list for 10 minutes and come back, there's another 50. Many of them say, 'The Twins told me to call you.' "
100% against? I think not. I wrote her the day after the plan came out telling her I was in favor of the plan. Shame on you Gail Dorfman! However, I am thrilled that the emails she is receiving now are overwhelmingly in favor. Let's keep that up people!
May 1, 2005
I have a little bone to pick. And while I've written about this before, I've got a few more things to say about referendums. First of all, let's take a look at who, so far, is in favor of the Hennepin County plan to build a new Twins stadium:
- Steve Sviggum - R, Speaker of the House
- Dean Johnson - DFL, Senate Majority Leader
- Tim Pawlenty - R, Governor of Minnesota
- Mike Opat, Randy Johnson, Mark Stenglein, and Peter McLaughlin; 4 of the 7 Hennepin County Commissioners
- R.T. Rybak - DFL, Mayor of Minneapolis (and his DFL competitor Peter McLaughlin)
- Randy Kelly - DFL, Mayor of St. Paul
So, given how many of our political leaders have come out in favor of this plan, and given how much they have studied, discussed, and argued about this issue over the years, forgive me if I feel less than comfortable turning this issue over to the voters of Hennepin County.
The typical resident of Hennepin County is an idiot when it comes to this issue. I'm sorry if I offend, but I include myself in this. We know what we read in newspapers, and we can spit back the sound-bites we hear on the local news. However, there is no way any typical resident of Hennepin County is as informed and educated on this issue as the legislators who we have elected to represent us concerning matters of fiscal and cultural importance such as this.
Let's look at some facts. The Mall of America ... did not have a referendum. The Hiawatha LRT ... did not have a referendum. The Metrodome ... did not have a referendum. The Xcel Energy Center ... did not have a referendum. The Guthrie ... did not have a referendum. How many of these projects would have been built if referendums had been held to let the "informed" public decide whether or not these projects were worthy of their tax dollars? I would wager none. However, given the choice now, and given how successful all these projects have been, how many people would decide to turn back the clock and not let these projects even begin? Again, I would wager none!
Referendums are the enemy of progress and an excellent way for our legislators to get out of the jobs we elected them to do. Oh, and by the way, referendums on school funding are also a huge mistake. Who wants to bet that the same people that right now are using the "education first" card against stadiums are the same people that voted down over half of the public school referendums in our state during the last elections? Education first my butt.
Lori Sturdevant said it best today in an editorial in the Strib in which she challenged those who would argue that "direct democracy" is the right way to go in situations like these.
That's what's wrong with direct democracy. It's susceptible to enormous influence by whatever side of a given issue can spend the most. That's because most people don't have time to bone up on the complexities that government must address. They go with what they hear, and they hear those with the biggest advertising budget.
I know, I know. The 21st century is being called the Century of the Individual. What people don't know about government, they make up for with their mastery of consumerism. They demand choices in other realms, and the market provides them. Why not in the making of laws too?
To those who make that argument, I have a proposition: You support a big improvement in citizenship education in grades K-12. You support several days of paid time off work in the month before an election, for the purpose of studying ballot questions. You support funding of public libraries adequate to open them seven days a week for purposes of public education on ballot questions. You support an extension of the public campaign financing system to campaigns for and against ballot questions, so both sides might be heard.
That is just beautiful. Let's all ponder that for a while. More tomorrow, including my take on the always informative Minnesota Poll, and my take on the chances of the legislature actually passing a state budget on time (not good!).