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January 26, 2006

Nothing coherent, just more "dashed off tripe"

• I was watching the T-Wolves a little bit last night and I was just blown away by how bad they are. I mean YIKES! It is definitely "panic time" at the Target Center. KG must be beside himself with anger. McHale has seriously built a sub-.500 team.

• And speaking of KG, I don't know how many of you saw this, but a couple of weeks ago KG was asked about his time with Stephon Marbury when he started to talk about his own childhood. He had this to say:

"I was a gym rat, man," he said. "I loved hoops, and when I'm done with this game, I'm gonna hoop. You're going to catch me at the Minnetonka YMCA busting some of those old guys' butts. You think I'm [kidding], but I can't wait to get back on the blacktop."

That is why I love KG: honesty, loyalty, and the Minnetonka YMCA is the one I frequent! Man, I would love to get dunked on by KG! And if I ever scored on him ... wow, I would launch some serious trash talking. I hope KG sticks around.

• In case you missed this, Sen. Don Betzold, Senate author of the Vikings stadium bill in the illustrious Minnesota legislature, wrote an interesting piece discussing the problems with a referendum. His argument is that only allowing Anoka County residents, or Hennepin County residents, to vote on the fate of our favorite sports teams would be "too narrow to be fair." Betzold writes:

The referendum issue raises a basic question: Who should get to vote on it? It would seem that if it is a local sales tax, then the local citizens should vote. But that means that nearby citizens, also affected by the sales tax, cannot vote. Some of my constituents live in suburban Anoka County, and some live next door in suburban Ramsey County. In fact, the city of Spring Lake Park is in both counties, so the Anoka County Spring Lake Park voters could vote on a referendum but the Ramsey County Spring Lake Park voters could not.

It is true that a state law requires a referendum approving a local sales tax to fund a local project, such as a city convention center. However, referendums have not been required for projects that have broad regional or statewide significance, such as the Minneapolis Convention Center and the Metrodome.

It is an argument I happen to agree with. The Metrodome and the Convention Center were built without referendum and I don't think anyone would ever say that they were a mistake. They have proven to be cost effective and important pieces of our metropolitan infrastructure. Betzold also writes:

That raises other questions: Should the voters of one county decide the future of a statewide asset? Do the Twins fans who live in Anoka County want the Hennepin County voters to decide if their team stays in Minnesota? Will the legislators who represent the other 87 counties want only Anoka County voters to decide the future of the Vikings? If Anoka County were to drop its plan and a new Vikings stadium proposal were to be proposed in, say, Dakota County, would Vikings fans in Anoka County want the voters in the southern suburbs to decide this issue? Should the students at the university vote on the possible tuition increases to pay for a new Gophers stadium?

The Legislature can't send tough questions like these to the voters. We have to figure them out ourselves.

This raises two important points: 1) since these are statewide assets, it is a shame that only one county will pay for these stadiums in the first place, and 2) the legislature should definitely figure these issues out themselves. The more salient point is point number two. Do your jobs senators and representatives! We elected you to make informed decisions on controversial topics, not put your head in the sand and pass these decisions back to us. What are you good for then? If you don't want to do your jobs then I want to vote on everything. Referendums are a cop-out and an example of weak-minded legislators doing whatever it takes to keep their jobs.

Grow a backbone and make a decision, up or down. But don't pass it back to me.

• You'll note over on the right side a new section listing out all the books I've read so far in 2006. It is only three right now, but I hope to grow this list as the year progresses. That way, at the end of the year I won't have to wrack my brain trying to remember what books I've read in the last 12 months.

And just to let you know, Empire Falls was excellent. The Planets was a quick read, but not as good as I thought it would be. Camouflage was very good. It had not one, but two aliens in it and I am a sucker for alien books. The book is about two almost immortal aliens who live on Earth and interact with life here for thousands of years. One alien spends most of its time with humans and becomes quite a nasty fellow, while the other alien spends most of its time in the ocean, and only begins spending time with humans during the 20th Century. Meanwhile, in the not so distant future, a strange metallic artifact is found in a Pacific trench and scientists from all over try to figure out what it is. Could it have something to do with one of our aliens? Read Camouflage to find out. I enjoyed it.

• That's it for now. I'm back to liking clapping again. Yesterday it seemed kind of stupid, though. Sort of stupid like hitting a small white ball with a stick and racing around a diamond shaped playing field. Who came up with that?

Posted by snackeru at January 26, 2006 8:28 AM | Books | Stadiums


"Sort of stupid like hitting a small white ball with a stick and racing around a diamond shaped playing field. Who came up with that?"

Obviously, it's proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

Posted by: SBG at January 26, 2006 1:13 PM

Nice little rhetorical sleights-of-hand there by Mr. Betzold.

Yes, it's true that the Metrodome was built without a referendum. That's because the Legislature funded it using their constitutional authority to levy taxes and spend revenue. Counties simply don't have that authority - by law, they either need to get the approval of the Legislature to effecively 'borrow' their authority, or get the authority directly from their own citizens via a referendum.

It's also strange that Mr. Betzold should note that people living on the fringes of the affected counties would be treated unfairly if not given the ability to vote on the issue. Personally, I wouldn't see any problem in letting them vote, given that there's nothing about living at the edge of a county that automatically makes one a stadium-backer and thus the overall result of a referendum - sound defeat for the proposal - wouldn't change at all. But the logic of the argument doesn't hold - by the same reasoning, it's unfair that residents of Hudson, WI, Superior, WI, and Grand Forks, ND can't vote in statewide Minnesota elections, since the candidates elected will impact their lives in ways just as significantly as a stadium referendum would impact someone living a block outside Anoka or Hennepin County.

Oh, and did you notice that, despite the best efforts of personal hero Tom Ridge who authorized four stadium projects during his tenure as Pennsylvania governor, that now the Penguins are considering moving out of Pittsburgh unless they get a shiny new facility at state expense? (http://www.umanitoba.ca/faculties/arts/economics/hudson/sportslinks/Penguins.html)

It doesn't matter how many buildings we build, how big they are, or how often we rebuild, remodel, or renovate them - this issue will *never* go away until the sports teams learn that government isn't their own personal chain of Old Country Buffets.

Posted by: David Wintheiser at January 26, 2006 2:34 PM

The Metrodome is one of the "cost effective and important pieces of our metropolitan infrastructure" isn't it? How cost effective is it to abandon it, and at the same time spend over a billion dollars on new stadiums?

It isn't that old. (What 20 years?) Is it really cost effective to build new stadiums for these teams whenever they feel the need for something new and shiny? No, this argument is pretty weak! You can't make any guarantees that this process won't start up again in 10 years if they are built. After all, the Vikings have a lease for another 5 years...

Posted by: DouglasG at January 26, 2006 3:11 PM

David, thanks for stopping by (I think). A well reasoned counter-argument as usual. Here is what I like about you, David. You are unapologetic about your views (as am I), but more importantly, you aren't afraid of losing the Twins. You would say good riddens to them. I think a lot of anti-stadium folks erroneously think the Twins will never leave here and that is why we shouldn't, as the public, help them build a new stadium. But you, it doesn't matter if they stay or if they leave. You say no public money for stadiums, the consequences be damned.

I can't say I will ever fully understand your position. You may be right, this cycle will never end. I guess I say, who cares? Life is too short and the cost is so little. Give me outdoor baseball and 30 years from now someone else can worry about the next go around (if you are right).

Posted by: Shane at January 26, 2006 3:13 PM

"The Metrodome and the Convention Center were built without referendum and I don't think anyone would ever say that they were a mistake. They have proven to be cost effective and important pieces of our metropolitan infrastructure."

This is comparing apples and oranges -- just because the Metrodome was cost effective has no bearing on another sports stadium being cost effective. The facts are that the newly proposed stadiums cost more, the public has little (or no) control over how they're designed or built (or run), and their one-sport foci are far more limited than the utilitarian Dome.

I have no problem with the Dome. Heck, I'm all for renovating it -- but wait, the Vikings unilaterally rejected renovation plans because they couldn't guarantee PARKING REVENUE. Now let's throw $400 million into a "new stadium and retail development" proposed by the owner? Nothing against public-private partnerships, but the public still has to pick its partners wisely.

Don't you think the Dome is fine place for football, Shane? As questionable as the Twins current plan is, I think the Vikings proposal is downright disgusting.

Posted by: spycake at January 26, 2006 7:34 PM

"You may be right, this cycle will never end. I guess I say, who cares? Life is too short and the cost is so little. Give me outdoor baseball and 30 years from now someone else can worry about the next go around"

If you are truly content with spending around $700 million-plus for 30 years of increasingly-costly entertainment, that's mildly disturbing.

Posted by: spycake at January 27, 2006 9:04 PM

Spycake! What the heck are you talking about?!?!? I've been writing the same thing for three years now, and suddenly you are "mildly disturbed" by it? I want a new Twins stadium, I think the Hennepin County plan will work, let's break out the shovels and get this done!

I am seriously laughing about this! You made my night!

Posted by: Shane at January 27, 2006 9:36 PM

I'm glad I brought a smile to your face, but I don't think you understood my point. I think it's odd even for a stadium booster to be so unconcerned that the stadium(s) may be out-of-date in another 30 years and the teams may again demand more public funds.

If i were you, I'd say that the new stadiums will last longer than the old ones, that each team will now have every brick-and-mortar revenue-generating amenity that they need, say anthing -- just don't say that you don't care if we're back at this point in 30 years! Whether true for you or not, that won't help your cause right now. The Metrodome being replaced after barely 20 years should be the exception, not the rule. If our pro sports teams make another "go around" for stadiums in 30 years, it will be much harder to defend them from blackmail accusations. I for one (and you as well, I imagine) hope that the 30 year lease is just a starting point -- I almost wish we could get a guarantee beyond 30 years, as long as the league in question is still intact in its current format. I understand few businesses make commitments even that long, but by building a stadium, I think both the public and the team acknowledge that it's something more than business.

Sorry for the rants, Shane. I want a stadium too, I'm just not quite ready to accept the Hennepin County plan... I wish our elected officials would at least address it, though, and maybe counter with some changes (naming rights, chiefly) or their own proposal.

Posted by: spycake at January 30, 2006 2:59 PM

Yes, spycake, I definitely want a stadium to last more than 30 years. In fact, if a stadium is every built in this state (unlikely) and the team again demands another one after 30 years I definitely won't lead the charge for a new one. I want this new stadium to last.

But I refuse to focus on the unknown. Who knows what will happen in 30 years? You don't know that the Twins will demand another new stadium just like I don't know that they won't. We can't base our decisions on such an unknown.

And yes, I would welcome our "elected officials" (you don't call them "morons" like me?) making a counter proposal that actually would result in a chance for a new stadium. But they never will. God bless Hennepin County for making the effort.

Posted by: Shane at January 30, 2006 4:23 PM

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