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April 18, 2006

Crunch time

• OK people. This is it. If ever there was a time to get active on this issue, now is that time. Forget about all the votes in the House, and forget about whether or not a bill would pass the Senate. Right now it is all about the House Tax Committee. On Thursday or Friday (I don't know exactly when they will have the vote) 29 legislators will effectively decide on the future of the Twins. In the past I have been confident that the Tax Committee will pass the bill with a vote of 15 for and 14 against. However, there is always reason for concern.

Take a look at this page listing out the votes in the Tax Committee. See all those question marks? Those are the people that could sway either way. Write those people today, especially if one of them is your own representative. The people with the question marks are right now considering the pros and cons of a Twins stadium, and an email from a Twins fan would go a long way towards helping them make the right decision. Thanks for your help!

• Public opinion seems to be swaying towards the Twins right now. Of course, there was another great editorial from the Star Tribune in yesterday's paper concerning this issue:

Here's the best part for legislators: This ballpark costs the state nothing. It competes against no state need. Even those paying sales tax in Hennepin County won't notice a minuscule 15-hundredths of 1 percent added to purchases excluding groceries, clothing and medicine. What would be noticed is the departure of an important ingredient in Minnesota's culture, quality of life and economic advantage.

It is time for the state to decide are we better with or without the Twins? I know a lot of you feel the Twins aren't going anywhere even if this stadium bill doesn't pass this year. That may be true, but how long can this last? How long can we do nothing? Do you really think that another government entity will step up like Hennepin County has and go through this hell in the years to come? Do you really think another year of delay will make it easier to finally build a new ballpark? Like the editorial above says, the legislature should send Hennepin County a thank-you note for figuring out a way to take this monkey off of all our backs. The Twins are not going to stay in the Metrodome forever! Let's actually save ourselves money in the long run and get this deal done now.

When you look at other stadium deals that have resulted in actual ballparks being built across the country you begin to see that the Twins and Hennepin County have put together a very fair and standard package for ballpark financing. Check out this list put together by County and Twins officials that highlights the percentage of team contributions to ballpark efforts:

% Team Contribution to Ballpark Construction
San Diego     43%
MINNESOTA     35%
Cleveland     26%
Texas     24%
Atlanta     22%
Pittsburgh     19%
Baltimore     18%
Colorado     16%
Cincinnati     12%

These numbers are also reflected in a 2004 document put together for the Governor's Stadium Screening Committee. Note that the Twins contribution is at the higher end of average team ballkpark contributions. Add to this the fact that the public will share in the profits if the team is sold within 10 years, the Twins are on the hook for any cost overruns to the ballpark (unlike DC), the Twins will also commit to paying all operating, maintenance and routine repair expenses of the ballpark, and the Twins are also required to contribute yearly to a capital improvement fund for the stadium. And the Twins won't even own the ballpark! We will.

The time is now. If you think a better deal is coming along, it is not. Are we better off having major league baseball in this state? Oh yes. Hopefully we are willing to do what it takes.

• Finally, as I said above public opinion seems to be swaying towards the Twins and the Hennepin County ballpark effort. Even Doug Grow of the Star Tribune has decided to support the Hennepin County proposal. And I love his reasoning:

Given that Hennepin County is the place where the entire region gathers, this sales tax is as close to a regional tax approach as we'll ever have.

Perhaps construction of a stadium will serve to re-energize Minneapolis.

More importantly, maybe it will help get Minnesota out of its "just say no" slump.

In the past decade, the state has become a place that aspires to mediocrity in education, transit, environment. It's just so easy -- and cheap -- to decide not to compete.

But, little by little, we're left with a lesser place to live.

Maybe, if we build a stadium, we can start to get back in the game again.

The frame of mind so prevalent in Minnesota today, the "just say no" attitude currently permeating state politics, is not the attitude that made this state a great place to live. It was a "can do" attitude that allowed us to build up our infrastructure and compete with other big cities as an important metropolitan area. Don't let Krinkie continue his efforts to take us back to the 1940s. And with that, I leave you for today. Write your legislator and write the legislators on the Tax Committee. Now is the time for action.

Posted by snackeru at April 18, 2006 8:20 AM | Stadiums 2006

Comments

So do you think Nick "Gollum" Coleman is shooting eye daggers at Doug Grow today? Boy must be chilly in the Strib metro section offices.

Also I got a call yesteday from the folks supporting the ballpark, urging me to go to Wednesday's hearing. I asked about Thursday's hearing in Bloomington and the caller didn't know anything about it. Since I know for a fact that the Twinsville folks read Greet Machine, I would urge them to inform their callers to encourage ballpark supporters to attend the Thursday hearing too. But it was encouraging they are making phone calls!

Posted by: freealonzo at April 18, 2006 9:29 AM

Not that I even object to the financials too much anymore, but isn't it a little disingenious to keep ignoring the land purchase and development costs? You know, the ones that will be 100% footed by the county, and alone almost equal the Twins construction contribution (especially considering that, unlike the Twins share, none of the county money is being deferred)?

And isn't it almost worse if the public owns the ballpark, rather than the team owning it? Then there's nothing keeping them here but the lease, and we've seen how leases are treated by pro sports franchises. I'd rather see the team own the stadium (and actually have a PHYSICAL stake in the state for once), assume of all the capital improvement costs (instead of only 30% as in the current plan), and pay the associated taxes on the land and structure.

Even so, I wish I could attend Thursday's fracas to support your efforts (and spite Krinkie) but alas, I'm still working evenings. Maybe you can get Doug Grow to be among the media on hand...?

Posted by: spycake at April 18, 2006 10:52 AM

Shane,

Thanks for the updates. I heard Dark Star arguing with Jim Davnie (DFL from Minneapolis?)on CCO last night. Davnie said he was opposed because he didn't think it was right for the state to put up 75% or more of the cost and not have any return on the investment. That's what kills me. The return on investment is having a major league franchise for the next 30+ years. Plenty of quality of life aspects of city planning have no "return" on their investment, like parks, theaters, etc. Major league franchises help differentiate Minneapolis/St. Paul from minor league cities like Omaha.

Are you going to the hearings Shane?

Grant

Posted by: Grant at April 18, 2006 10:53 AM

Don't be too happy about Doug Grow endorsing the
stadium! He knows that this last minute support is
a way of infuriating Conservative Republicans!!
Also,I think it is tragic the way Liberal DFLers
from Mpls. manipulate their own constituencies!
WHAT ABOUT THE PEOPLE THAT YOU REPRESENT WHO WORK AT THE METRODOME NOW REP.DAVNIE ? WHERE WILL THEY
WORK ?

Posted by: JimJ at April 18, 2006 1:12 PM

Just how deep into the Twins' back pocket can this site crawl? Pretty deep if the last two entries on the blog are any measure.

Embarassing.

Posted by: David at April 18, 2006 4:56 PM

David, while I respect that you disagree with me, there is no need to be a jerk.

I obviously see this debate differently than you. I believe that it is inevitable that the Twins will eventually leave the Dome, either for a new stadium here, or to leave the Twin Cities (possibly contraction). I doubt Pohlad is going to wake up some day and pay for a stadium out of the goodness of his own heart.

Combine that inevitability with the size of the Twin Cities (15th largest media market according to the Nielsons), and the Twin Cities will become leverage for every small market team asking for a new stadium.

My belief is that we are either going to pay now for the Twins or later for a replacement team. It may take years, but it will happen (e.g. the Wild). We can bury our heads in the sand and pretend like the Twins will never leave, but that did not work out so well for Cleveland Browns fans, did it?

So what happens when we draw the replacement team? Is that stadium going to be free? Was the Xcel Center free? Did Cleveland "win" by holding out and then building a stadium for an expansion team five years later?

I see us eventually paying for a stadium for baseball. It could be now for the Twins or later for an replacement team, but I think it will happen. Given that choice I would rather "invest" in keeping the Twins.

Posted by: Grant at April 18, 2006 6:12 PM

Grant...Your wisdom is falling on deaf ears. Reason does not fathom those like David. They're the Nancy Reagans of the 21st century...JUST SAY NO NO NO NO NO NO...WAH WAH WAH WAH WAH...

It used to drive me nuts, now I just find it funny. And Penny Steele was crying at the board meeting tonight. Someone needs to take her out back and beat her with a stick. There's a war going on in the middle east Penny, where thousands of people have died. Cry over that debacle and not some stupid baseball park. How ridiculous is this going to get with these morons?????

Posted by: kevin in az at April 18, 2006 11:30 PM

Actually, embarrassing is misspelling embarrassing in my post above.

See, we opponents do have a sense of humor. :)

No offense meant Grant. I thought my comment was rather mild compared to what I typically read here, a thought that was confirmed by Kevin's post that follows yours. The ad hominem attacks on opponents typical of this site, which occasionally can be written off as sarcastic, do little to encourage me to engage in civil discourse.

It's true that I do not believe we should be devoting any appreciable amount of public tax dollars to pro sports businesses. Although it is uncouth to say, my feeling in that respect is strengthened by the fact that Mr. Pohlad is the 250th or so richest man in the entire world, and major league baseball is a tens of billions of dollars industry. I have no personal animus toward Mr. Pohlad, who has given away more money than I would earn in a thousand lifetimes. But the notion that it is necessary to subsidize the costs of infrastructure for Mr. Pohlad's MLB business is ridiculous.

To which proponents say, "we know it is not necessary, but they will leave otherwise." That's where are differences are irreconcilable I suppose. I say if push comes to shove, we shove back, even if it means losing the Twins. On that score, I'd say I have more perspective on this issue than Kevin.

Even if one believes that appreciable amounts of public dollars should go to subsidize the pro sports business that is the Twins in a wealthy, anti-trust exempt cartel that is MLB, I don't believe this is a good deal. We should not be putting 75% of the costs on taxpayers' backs for this stadium. Period.

For all the brilliance in the "3 cents on 20 dollars" marketing scheme, this thing will cost $1 billion or more over 22-24 years; I'm 36 and will be paying until near retirement for this, and my kids, the oldest of whom is six, will be paying when she nears thirty. The total cost is too high and the percentage paid on ballpark costs is too high.

Stadium proponents say this is the best deal we can get. Of course, Hartman and Co. have said that about every deal for the last ten years, swallowing whole the Twins' propaganda lines. Maybe it is the "best deal," maybe not. But either way, it is not a good, or fair, deal.

Finally, even if you think appreciable public dollars should go toward this effort, and even if you think this is a fair deal, I'll have to disagree with you on the referendum exemption. The elephant in the room is that Hennepin County residents oppose this deal. To paraphrase Bob Dole, you know it, I know it, and the Minnesota Twins know it. The only reason to exempt this is that it would not be approved. You can say that’s what elected reps are for on the Hennepin County Board, but the facts are that (1) our elected reps also voted to generally require a referendum in this sort of circumstance, and (2) the Hennepin County Board, namely Mike Opat, struck this deal on his own, and got it through the Board all BETWEEN election cycles. No one knew or could have known this was coming before the last Hennepin County elections, and by the time voters get to hold Board members accountable this fall, it will be too late if the deal is already approved. That’s the genius, if you want to call it that, of this deal. Get the referendum exemption, and all the ex post accountability in the world won’t matter. Maybe even a stadium proponent could see how that is frustrating for an opponent who takes his politics seriously - especially given that the entire County effort comes on the heels of statewide taxpayers and leaders like Gov. Pawlenty being unwilling to pay with state funds for this "state asset."

The notion that we should overpay now because it is inevitable that if the Twins leave we will overpay later for a new franchise is not persuasive to me in the least. At best it’s defeatism masquerading as realism; at worst it is just a tactic the Twins use to scare us.

I do not believe this is a good deal by any stretch. And I absolutely love baseball. Played it for twenty years in some capacity and raise my kids to love it. Don’t need the Twins to do that. I’m not a “no to everything? guy; far from it. I’m not anti-American. I maintain a rather healthy perspective on this and others matters. The war in Iraq, Kevin? I agree this stadium and the Minnesota Twins pale in importance to the war as a matter of public or private priority. Funny how we draw very different conclusions from that.

Unlike some, but certainly not all, stadium proponents, I’m not narrow-minded enough to pretend that those on the other side don’t have some decent arguments.

If my first comment suggested otherwise, I’ll gladly retract it.

Later all.

Posted by: David at April 19, 2006 11:18 AM

David, as you can see you are more than welcome to post comments here and debate the issue. A bunch of stadium opponents read and comment on this blog including spycake and David Wintheiser and I have always accepted their well reasoned arguments. But please, don't take my strong disagreement with them as "ad hominem" attacks. In fact, I find that a little offensive. Sure, I have some harsh words for people like Coleman and Krinkie, but I don't hide behind a veil of anonymity. They are more than welcome to come to this site and let me have it.

I also find offensive that you call me "pathetic" and accuse me of being "in the back pockets" of the Twins. Do you have any proof to back this up? Do you even know me? Talk about an "ad hominem" attack, and an anonymous one to boot.

If you don't like what you read here, don't read it. But please get off of your high horse. Don't accuse people of the very thing that you seem to have no problem doing yourself.

Posted by: Shane at April 19, 2006 12:07 PM

Whoa Shane - sorry you took offense. I think you are projecting a bit. I’m afraid whether you remain anonymous or not has no bearing on whether the site - and I include the comments - resorts to ad hominem attacks on opponents to the stadium. I maintain that it does. That Coleman could come here and reciprocate with ad hominem attacks because he knows who you are does not seem to me to be an answer.

I believe the Twins’ effort to pack Twins fans into a hearing meant to provide opponents an opportunity to speak is pathetic. You would have written the same, in stronger terms, had opponents made a coordinated attempt to pack the hearing (“fill the auditorium?) devoted to proponents. In fact, I’d say the same thing about opponents if they would have or do intend to do that. I was also clearly responding to an earlier comment in that same thread that said,

“My understanding is that the Bloomington town hall meeting is for everyone. It's just going to be the focal point for the anti-American crowd to shout down the stadium.?

Now what was that about ad hominem attacks? Anyway, I wasn’t calling you pathetic. Apparently proponents and opponents will now both speak at both hearings, so problem solved.

The “embarrassing - back pocket? comment was addressed in the site’s adoption (in the two posts to which I referred) of the Hartman-esque hysteria evident in the Twins’ pro-stadium campaign. When it comes to the stadium, I don’t see much effort to think critically about what the Twins have to say; as spycake pointed out in one of his comments, the adoption of the Twins’ numbers on their “percentage share? is one precise example. That's of a piece with the Twins' efforts over the last two or three stadium deals to deceive the public. There is really no denying that, is there Shane?

I wasn’t calling you “embarrassing,? but, as you are responsible for the content of the two postings to which I specifically referred, I can see how it could and would be interpreted that way. Of course, I did offer a retraction before your post.

Now, when I read that stadium opponents are anti-American and unpatriotic (not that you’d ever allege that, right Shane?), and moronic to boot, at least I’ll rest easy in knowing that the site does not condone ad hominem attacks.

This exchange aside, your site is an impressive advocacy project, and a useful place for both sides of the debate to visit.

There, now that I've dismounted the imaginary horse you have me riding, are we all better?

Posted by: Anonymous at April 19, 2006 1:31 PM

Yep, that makes me feel better, actually. And just to clarify, all the "anti-American" stuff is really meant as a joke. If Coleman can get my goat I can surely get your's, I hope. Well, at least it makes me laugh. And I have never said that anti-stadium people are morons, only anti-stadium legislators. I stand by that statement. The MN legislature is filled with morons and you can't tell me any different. So there.

Finally, I have been writing passionately about this issue for three freaking years. And I think I can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel. I'm not looking for your acceptance or even your understanding because I am who I am. Again, if you disagree with something feel free to let me know, but I will probably disagree right back. And, of course, if you don't like any of this you definitely don't have to read it.

You are always welcome though. Have a good one.

Posted by: Shane at April 19, 2006 1:39 PM

Also, just to clarify, I have never received a dime from the Twins. In fact, I think they try to distance themselves from me. When all those emails went out from Dave St. Peter asking Twins fans to come to the hearings, I didn't get one. It would upset me if I wasn't so insane about all of this.

Posted by: Shane at April 19, 2006 1:42 PM

Fair enough. I appreciate your passion on the issue, and can understand that proponents' hopes are justifiably running high right now. If it passes, it will be in part because citizens like you are engaged in the process, and that is to your everlasting credit, whatever the result. If for no other reason, that's why I won't linger over the passage of a no-referendum stadium bill very long, unlike, I fear, many others in the opponents' camp. If it passes, I'll be with you in saying "let's move on."

Even though it is a bad deal.... :)

Posted by: David at April 19, 2006 1:55 PM

David I purposely put that angry violent msg on here just for you and Spycake, just get you going...Oh David, you're such a martyr, your perspective on this issue pales in comparison to the blog's author...Take your soapbox somewhere else!

Posted by: kevin in az at April 19, 2006 10:56 PM

Oh, and David, as the author of the "Anti-American" post you quoted, I really don't think realistically that anyone can be offended or considered being under attack by being called "anti-American" if they don't support a stadium. As Shane has pointed out, it is simply a joke and a play on the patriotism (either you are one or not) that has been a running theme in our country for the last couple of years. That said, if you did take offense at my comment, I apologize.

Posted by: Cheesehead Craig at April 21, 2006 11:49 AM

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