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April 28, 2006

This is who I am

I want to explain a few things to you:

My name is Shane. It isn't too hard to figure out who I am. I am not an anonymous blogger.

I have a wife and three kids all of whom I love very much.

I volunteer at my church as a sound technician for our Sunday School program.

I teach a graduate class on Tuesday nights at the College of St. Catherine in the Dept. of Library and Information Science.

I am the Tiger Den Leader for my local Cub Scout Pack.

I just put in a brand new basketball hoop on my driveway, and I recently visited Minnehaha Falls.

I enjoy reading (right now it is Air by Geoffry Ryman), listening to music (The Soft Bulletin by the Flaming Lips is in heavy rotation), and watching movies (Wow, was V for Vendetta ever good).

I still mow my parents lawn.

I am a librarian and the webmaster at the University of Minnesota Libraries and manager of the UThink blog system.

This is who I am. I like to think I am making a positive contribution to society.

I spend most of my time as a librarian. Now, any librarian worth his or her salt will tell you one of the most important aspects of librarianship is protecting intellectual freedom and the freedom of speech. Libraries collect a lot of material, some of which is very controversial. The saying goes, if you haven't found something in a library that offends you, you haven't been looking hard enough.

I also like baseball. Specifically Twins baseball. As a Twins fan, I have decided to support the effort to build a new ballpark. I don't have any hidden agendas. I just want to make sure the Twins stay in Minnesota, and I am excited for the possibilty of watching outdoor baseball again. For a lot of reasons, this is controversial. It even offends some people.

I'm sorry if you don't agree with me. I really am. But I have a right to my opinion. In fact, I would argue I have a right, in fact even an obligation to get involved in the issues that matter to me. It is my right as a citizen of this state. Obviously I have gotten involved by writing on this blog.

Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing. As a librarian, I enjoy my role as a protector of this right, and as a citizen I have enjoyed taking a few minutes out of every day to write about a Twins stadium. I am a firm believer that we shouldn't be afraid to speak out on issues that matter to us, and especially on issues that could impact us.

I have recently learned, however, that this may be a naive view of this wonderful right. Freedom of speech is not so much black and white as it is gray, and it is somewhat of a two way street. Sure I can speak my mind and say what I want, but that doesn't mean there aren't consequences. My freedom of speech can get me in trouble. It can also bring me a little pain. I have learned that there are consequences to the freedom of speech that one must be willing to deal with.

For example, some people don't like the freedom of speech, especially when they hear things they don't agree with. The freedom of speech can also cause the people around you to look differently at you. It can also make people become angry with you. In essence, your freedom of speech can make you feel very uncomfortable.

Are you willing to deal with that? Can you handle it? Am I willing to deal with it? For the past three years, I have been willing to deal with it. I would write on my little blog and maybe 100 people would read my drivel. Then a funny thing happened. More people started to read my drivel, word got around, and I got on the 10:00 news.

Wow. This has caused a whole bunch of interesting things to happen to me, both good and bad. I've had some fun conversations with people. I've gotten a lot of fun phone calls from family and friends. Friends have emailed me from all over asking if I could sign some autographs. I've also been confronted by a co-worker. I had a less than pleasant meeting with my own boss and his supervisor. I've gotten a lot of problematic emails, some of them CC'd to the president of the University.

I must also clarify that the Univerisity and the University Libraries have backed me up on this issue. But I will admit to some embarrassment over them having to do so. It makes me a little upset that my blog seems to be the most controversial on the UThink system. The system I developed. It makes me upset that my supervisors have been forced to defend me. So, I have considered letting it go.

You see? Consequences. Your freedom of speech, my freedom of speech does not come without a price. For a long time I have talked a good game concerning the philosophy of freely speaking your mind. What I have recently been forced to ask myself though is can I walk the walk? Can I pay the price? Can I deal with the consequences?

I have decided the answer is yes. Bring it on. A good friend of mine recently wrote me and said, "Remember--we don't do this because it's easy, we do it because it's hard. Anybody can do little things, work the margins, and not make waves -- but where's the fun in that?"

Yes. I am proud of the impact I've had, and I'm proud of the work I've done. I have decided that I want to continue to make waves.

Anyway, I just thought you should know why I didn't post anything today. See you soon.

Posted by snackeru at 11:30 PM | Comments (24)

April 26, 2006

Back to work

• OK. Party's over. Let's get back to work. There is a stadium bill to pass out of the Senate, and some legislators to convince to make the right decision. The Voter's Guide is now a thing of the past. It is time to focus on the Senate.

• Before I begin, I must send a thanks out to Jason DeRusha (video included in link) at WCCO for treating me kindly last night. Jason called me yesterday afternoon in order to do an interview about this here blog, and at first I really didn't want to do it. Well, the piece turned out to be pretty good. He only had video of me saying two stupid things, and he mentioned my wife which made her happy. So, all in all it was an interesting and fun experience.

And let me tell you, when Amelia Santinello knows who you are? Oh man, that is when you know you have made it! Thanks for my 15 minutes of fame Jason. Now, I'll just go back to my quiet corner of the library.

Let me clarify though. When I said that "This will be my biggest day ever," I meant in terms of hits to my blog, not life in general. And it was a pretty big day. Between 800 and 900 unique visitors, and nearly 3,000 hits. My biggest day previously? The day I described my visit with the Little Brown Jug.

• Enough about all that, though. Let's talk about the Senate and the Senate Tax Committee. I have been working on a Senate version of the Voter's Guide for a while, but let me tell you Minnesota State Senators are tough buggers to pin down. Unlike a lot of their House counterparts, Senators, relatively speaking, have kept their mouths shut concerning this issue. So, it has been somewhat of a challenge.

Today's vote in the House should impact a lot of their votes so I am definitely not ready to say the Senate is a lost cause. However, certain things I've been hearing have led me to believe it will not be as easy to get out of the Senate as previously thought.

Sen. Larry Pogemiller, chair of the Senate Taxes Committee, has already made it clear that he will vote against this bill without a referendum. It is also well known that he will attempt to combine all three stadium bills into one "uber" bill and pay for all of them with a metro-wide sales tax. While I think this is a good idea, I also think that combining all the bills will kill all the bills. I just don't think the House would go for it. So, what will happen?

Today the Senate version of the Twins stadium bill will be heard in the Senate Taxes Committee. This is how I see the votes shaking out:

NameEmailPredicted Vote
Chair: Lawrence J. Pogemiller (DFL) sen.larry.pogemiller@senate.mn No ?
Vice Chair: David J. Tomassoni (DFL) sen.david.tomassoni@senate.mn Yes
Ranking Minority Member: William V. Belanger Jr. (R) sen.bill.belanger@senate.mn No
Thomas M. Bakk (DFL) sen.tom.bakk@senate.mn Yes
Don Betzold (DFL) sen.don.betzold@senate.mn Yes
Debbie J. Johnson (R) sen.debbie.johnson@senate.mn No
Warren Limmer (R) sen.warren.limmer@senate.mn No
John Marty (DFL) sen.john.marty@senate.mn No
Mike McGinn (R) sen.mike.mcginn@senate.mn ?
Mee Moua (DFL) sen.mee.moua@senate.mn Yes
Julianne E. Ortman (R) sen.julianne.ortman@senate.mn Yes
Rod Skoe (DFL) sen.rod.skoe@senate.mn Yes

Please note! I am not sure of these votes. So please, don't take my word for it. And if you know anything differently, please let me know!

UPDATE: I've been told that today's Senate Tax Committee meeting is only informational. They are going to go over all three bills and think about some possibilities. There may not even be any testimony. That starts at 2:00 today. Tomorrow at 9:00 AM is when the "real" meeting will begin. That is when we'll see what kinds of changes Pogey has in store. This gives us plenty of time to write these Senators! So get to it!

Also, I've been told that Pogey isn't necessarily anti-stadium. He may have a great plan in mind and he may really want to solve all these problems. In fact, I'm pretty sure of that. But I just don't think combining all the bills is going to work. Ramsey County legislators are not going to want to be taxed for three stadiums, none of which are in their county. That is my feeling, but we'll see.

We'll see how this goes. Yesterday, Pogemiller drastically changed the Gopher's stadium bill. Hopefully he won't be able to do the same with the Twins stadium.

More later!

Posted by snackeru at 10:36 PM | Comments (25)

Today is the day

Well, I'm not really sure what to say. It would not be exaggeration to say that today is a very important day for the Minnesota Twins. I'll just leave it at that, because God forbid I turn into a drooling idiot. All of our emails, all of our phone calls, all of our debates and arguments ... it all comes down to this moment. Of course, if this bill passes the House it is far from over, but for right now, this is it.

At 9:00 AM today (or sometime around there), the House floor will debate HF2480, "Baseball stadium financing, construction, and operation provided; Minnesota Ballpark Authority established; and Hennepin County sales tax authorized." You can all watch it over the Interweb.

I'll try to update you on what is happening in the proceedings, and hopefully if I miss something you can update me in the comments below (I do have to work, you know).

Anyway, I'm nervous and excited all at once. Let's get this done. See you soon.

UPDATE I: 9:20 AM -- Both the DFL and the Republican parties have requested caucus meetings until 10:00. So, the House is in recess until then. I wonder what they will be talking about? Hmmmmm ...

UPDATE II: 10:33 AM -- Sigh. As I've said before, one thing I have learned about the legislature is that they are always late. When they say 10:00 they probably mean 10:30, or in the case of today, maybe 11:00 or 11:30. I can just imagine the "discussions" they are having in their caucus meetings right now.

UPDATE III: 11:05 -- Looks like it will be starting soon. Unfortunately I have a meeting to attend, so if anything interesting happens between now and 1:00 PM (especially a referendum amendment) leave a comment!

UPDATE IV: 1:07 -- I'm back, and thanks to all the commenters below, I can report that the referendum amendment on the floor was defeated 64-66. It is looking good people. Very, very good.

UPDATE V: 1:10 -- I gotta say, if Erhardt is anti-stadium (which I'm not totally sure of), an amendment to put a roof on that uses state-wide tax money is a sure-fire way to kill this bill. I'm pretty confident it will be defeated.

UPDATE VI: 1:31 -- The Speaker just said there are 12 amendments to go. Woo-hoo! Let's get past these and move on.

UPDATE VII: 1:50 -- Holy crap. Klinzing has just brought out the "taxation without representation argument" and alluded to blood being spilled over the stadium (although she admitted that it probably won't happen over a stadium). Egads, I should hope not. The amendment she is moving would have the tax imposed only on residents of the county where the representative has voted in favor of the bill. Very creative.

Plus, an anonymous commenter has given us all a link that lists out the remaining amendments (and the ones they've already covered) and the text of those amendments. Very cool.

UPDATE VIII: 2:07 -- You know, Klinzing is being a little disingenuous. A typical family in Hennepin County maybe spends $600 on taxable goods in a week (actually I'm pretty sure I spend less). That means they will pay maybe 50 cents 90 cents a week for the stadium (correction by freealonzo). Is it more than not paying anything? Yes. Is it substantial and noticeable? No. (thanks to freealonzo for supplying these figures). It isn't as doom and gloom as Klinzing is making it out to be. Her amendment failed.

UPDATE IX: 2:16 -- Kelliher is moving an amendment to use the yearly left over funds (from the tax, after debt service) to pay for youth sports and/or extended library hours. I am torn about this amendment. On the one hand, it is a great idea, but on the other hand I would like any left over funds to be used to pay off the debt quicker. Abrams is rightly saying this bill is for a ballpark only. Let's just pay for that. -- Huh, Kelliher pulled the amendment. Interesting.

UPDATE X: 2:40 -- Wow, that was interesting. You could just see all the votes switching to yes. I thought the Wagenius amendment would be defeated. Someone help me on this one ... does this mean that the "public" will get 18% of the sale price of the Twins no matter when the Twins are sold? The bill stipulated that the public would share in the sale price only up to 10 years after the stadium is built. Anyone?

UPDATE XI: 2:45 -- Kahn has an interesting amendment: put together a "ballpark account" and immediately put into it the money from the sale of the Metrodome. Then, use the money to pay off part of the ballpark. Interesting. We'll see how this one shakes out.

Interesting. Right now the sale price of the Metrodome would go into an account to build a football stadium. Likely the new stadium in Anoka County. Kahn is arguing that the funds should stay in Minneapolis. She might be making sense... Well it wasn't adopted.

UPDATE XII: Ah ... the Hennepin County Twins amendment. Stupid, but in the end I don't really care. Put an "HC" on the hat and I would still cheer for them. This really is, though, a waste of time.

Man! I cannot believe how much time they are wasting on this! Incredible.

Finally, it has been soundly defeated. What a phenomenal waste of time.

UPDATE XIII: Bernardy is moving an amendment that will try to assure the Twins will be on TV to as much of the state as possible. How? She withdraws, although it still took like 15 minutes of debate. Ugh.

UPDATE XIV: Well, if you've wondered why I haven't updated for a while, WCCO news is in my office right now interviewing me. So, me and the Greet Machine should be on the news tonight! Amazing heh? We'll see how the story comes out. I hope they get my good side!

What would really tick me off, though, is if they make me miss the vote!

UPDATE XV: It looks like there are about 3 amendments to go. We should see a vote maybe around 5:30!

UPDATE XVI: Yikes! I'm back. Oh man ... I guess I'm going to be on the 10:00 news tonight. But enough about me. Let's get back to business...

UPDATE XVII: I love Dan Dorman. I love his passion, and his intelligence. He is a great legislator to have on our side.

Two amendments to go according to Sviggum. Let's get the vote on!

UPDATE XVIII: I have totally been thrown off by this WCCO interview. Man! I probably said some stupid stuff.

Last amendment! Finally. Krinkie is moving the amendment, which doesn't sound too bad, but then again, I'm not sure why it is necessary.
Sertich is saying the amendment is beyond the purview of the state of Minnesota government. There are national broadcast rights that leagues sign with the media that we can't mess with. Why the heck is Krinkie wasting our time with this? Sheesh!!!

Wow. The amendment was barely defeated.

UPDATE XIX: Well, Hilty is moving to reconsider the "community ownership" amendment. Quite frankly, I'm surprised it was defeated in the first place. It has been passed.

3rd reading. Let the grandstanding begin ...

Juhnke is saying it is time to move on (amen brother!). We've had bills, we've had meetings, we've had task forces, we've had screening committees. It is time to get this done.

Urdahl is speaking in favor of the bill. Minnesota has a lot of memories with Minnesota Twins baseball. Baseball has a way of identifying who we are, our quality of like, our heroes, and it is about us. Let's build this ballpark and keep the Twins in Minnesota.

Gazelka is saying he has switched his vote to YES! Awesome. Paraphrasing: Do the Twins benefit the state? Yes. Will the Twins leave? The risk is too great to take that chance. He voted for the referendum, but this is the plan we have. We help a lot of businesses and we are going to keep jobs in Minnesota. Thank you Rep. Gazelka!

Wagenius wants to talk about another tradition of giving back to the community. 3M and the McKnight Foundation, or Alan Page's organization. One doesn't make a huge amount of money in this state unless they have reaped the benefit of having a well educated population. Carl Pohlad wants to promote a culture of greed, getting something for nothing. Let's just say she is not in favor...

Hausman: This is a simple proposal. Everyone loves the Twins, but no one wants to pay for them. That is what we've learned today. And now we are going to tax a small population (? small?) because no one wants to pay for them.

And she has taken a shot at Pawlenty! She is on a roll. Oops! And there is the education argument, and yep ... the transportation argument. Let's just say she is not in favor.

Demmer next. He is perplexed at all the gnashing of teeth over Hennepin County getting a $500 million public works project. He said counties in his area would be falling over themselves for the chance at public works projects at even a fraction of the cost. Good point (but I am pretty biased ... I'll admit it!).

And now he is bringing up the old people, nursing home argument! Goooooo Demmer!!! Just say no to the Las Vegas Twins!

Peterson from Bloomington. Great guy. Watched the North Stars leave and doesn't want to watch another team leave. He's talking about meeting Pohlad as a banker and how impressed he was with him. Pohlad has done so much as a benefactor to this community.

Greg Olson -- ugh. Republic? Democracy? No we are a plutocracy. Definition: A system of government whereby wealth and the benefits that wealth accrues lead to a concentration of power in the hands of those with disproportionate access to financial resources. This is ridiculous. We are building a ballpark, Rep. Olson. That's it.

Finstad -- We are solving a problems. Thanks to Hennepin County for taking the advice of the state and the governor and coming up with a proposal that works. A green vote will put this issue behind us and allow us to move on.

God bless you Rep. Finstad. Let's get this job done.

Erhardt -- Just compared this to the "land grab" that got the Dutch Manhattan island for a few "beads and trinkets." Erhardt will be a no vote.

Dorman -- This is a good bill. People that say the team won't leave don't know the history of Minnesota. The Lakers left. He wants to make sure his kids will be able to take their kids to a Twins game. Teams sometimes do leave, and we don't want this to happen in Minnesota. It would have cost us $10 million to keep the North Stars, and $200 million to get a team back. Let's not make the same mistake that allowed the Lakers to leave, and the North Stars to leave.

Nice Dorman, very nice.

Bernardy is saying that we've now spent more time on stadiums than education and other more important issues. Yes! I agree, and it is people like you that are to blame! We could have saved millions of dollars and tons of time if we would have done this 10 years ago! Sheesh!

Westerberg -- He's brining up the Vikings stadium bill. I can't worry about that yet. At least Anoka county legislators are in favor of the plan, unlike the legislators from Hennepin County.

Dempsey -- Jobs, ????, and no money from the general fund! Can anyone fill in the blank? I missed it. I think it is "Keeping baseball in Minnesota"

Sertich -- Speaking about 3/4 of a billion dollars in new investment in the area of the stadium. Tons of jobs, and maintaining a good quality of life. Schools should be funded too! The two issues are mutually exclusive. Let's do both.

Nelson -- Moving a relative into a nursing home he came across an old newspaper article talking about contraction. We need to do this now and not have to go through this again. It will cost a lot more money to get a team back. We should just keep the team we have. This is the best plan we are going to get.

Klinzing -- She is skeptical about the "creation of new jobs." "It just isn't so." She is saying that new jobs were not created when we tore down Met Stadium because those jobs moved to the Mall of America. Yeah ... about 10 years later ... this speech is a little confusing. Wants baseball to be treated like any business in the free market.

Holberg -- Looking for direction from the legislators in Hennepin County. She is concerned that we are ignoring the wishes of the representatives of the County. "This is a major steamroller. It is so wrong."

Hornstein -- The main reason we are here is because Hennepin County does not want to do a referendum. They want to circumvent state law (I don't agree with this). He doesn't know what HC is so afraid of. Referendums have passed all over the country for stadiums.

Kahn -- Wants to talk about her grandchildren, one of which was born in Montreal. She says Montreal isn't a "cold Omaha" but a fantastic city. Her grandkids have great health care, state subsidized, and Montreal doesn't miss the Expos at all. (This is just a horrible argument)

Delaforest -- $850 million investment and we don't know what the economic benefits are. No one can say. "Show me the due dilligence." Jobs won't be created, but they may be lost also because these businesses will be paying this tax.

Westrom -- Wants to talk about the roof. Ugh. Give it up. For more information on this topic, check out this.

Lanning -- Not so gung ho on a roof anymore. We just can't afford it! Plus the land selected just won't work. It isn't feasible.

Krinkie -- We passed the Gopher stadium bill, we are probably going to pass the Twins bill, and we will probably pass a Vikings stadium. Who is in the on-deck circle? The Target Center. It is the 7th oldest arena in the NBA. Members ask yourself, how many hundreds of millions do you want to spend to subsidize professional sports?

Greiling -- This is the second "strike out" for the taxpayers of the state of Minnesota. The next batter up is the Vikings stadium.

Marquart -- Will a roof be put on in conference committee? Could it be put on in conference committee?

Finstad -- There isn't enough dollars to get it done. The concourses will be heated and cooled and double the size of the Metrodome concourses. There will be shields to protect people from the sun. There is no roof on this proposal.

Peter Nelson -- Touch em all Kirby Puckett! Touch em all!

The bill passed 76-55. Wow, that is more than I thought it would be.

76-55: The bill passes!

TwinsConstruction.jpg

And with that, I leave you for tonight. Let's party!

Posted by snackeru at 8:35 AM | Comments (60)

April 25, 2006

There are wackos and then there are opponents

A representative just sent me this email that a Minnesota citizen is sending to all the members of the House. It kind of speaks for itself:

Dear Representatives:

THOU SHALT NOT STEAL. There is no ambiguity in that commandment.

If you are instrumental in taking money from the taxpayers and giving it to a bunch of rich bastards, I wouldn't worry about facing the wrath of the voters; it's your immortal souls you should be worried about.

When you die and are trying to get into heaven, this will certainly come up. You all know deep in your heart it is wrong to steal from the poor and give to the rich. The only uncertainly is whether God will let you try and explain yourselves before he sends you directly to hell where you belong.

Quite frankly this email makes me sick. You know, I am pro-stadium. I don't think that is a secret. But one thing I have tried my hardest to hold off on is coming across as a complete nut case. I talk with proponents and opponents alike and I try to do so in a respectful manner. But this is too much. This is sickening. People ... we are talking about building a ballpark. We are not talking about killing puppies or baby seals, we are talking about putting together a building where people will be able to watch other people play baseball. That's it, and its something that a lot of other cities have already done. Will Carl Pohlad make money? Yes, he will. He has done it before and he'll do it again. But I don't understand why so many people care. Get over it. It isn't worth fretting over. We don't fret over the Xcel Energy Center, or the Target Center, or the Metrodome or any of the other buildings that were built with taxpayer money. And by the way, some individuals made a ton of money off of them.

I'm tired. But one thing I will be sure to do is thank the legislators that have voted for the stadium. They deserve to know that some people are happy with them. And I won't email the legislators that voted no, and I certainly won't condemn their souls to hell. They have their opinion and I respect that. Let's all take a deep breath and try to be civil to each other. If you are anti-stadium you are not the voice of morality or God or all that is good. You do not have a monopoly on the truth! You have an opinion that is different than mine, one that I respect, but I do not agree with. Please, please, please, can we just leave it at that?

Posted by snackeru at 2:18 PM | Comments (12)

I could get used to this!

• You know, I've never seen this kind of success before out of a Twins stadium bill. For the past 10 years I have kind of resigned myself to the fate of seeing failure after failure after failure. But to see a Twins stadium bill pass through the House Taxes Committee (where it never saw the light of day in 2005) and the House Ways and Means Committee (where it failed in 2004) is almost surreal. But if it passes the House floor? Oh man ... that would be a sign that the end times are here. Passage of a new Twins stadium bill out of the House will be proof of the imminent return of Jesus and the upcoming battle of Armageddon. In addition, the very fabric of the space-time continuum will be ripped, we will reach the apex of the cone of time, and Marty McFly will not make it Back to the Future. If a Twins stadium bill is passed out of the House, I will either have a heart attack out of happiness or I will fall into a state of catatonic shock and eat jello from a straw for the rest of my life. Will it be worth it? Oh yes. Bring it on. For you, Minnesota Twins fan, I am willing to risk it. Besides, I like jello.

• Today I will be updating the Ways and Means Committee votes page to reflect what actually happened, but I am pretty sure I was one off with a few legislators passing or actually absent. Larson was a no (although it seemed to be painful for him to vote No for some reason) while Smith was a Yes (even though he said he was only voting yes to move it to the floor of the House, not because he was in favor of it).

What is strange about Smith's vote is if he would have switched to a No, the bill may not have passed. All of these shenanigans lead me to believe that the votes are all already lined up. We are just watching a play unfolding with the end result already written. Hennepin County legislators have struck a deal with out-state legislators that allows them to vehemently oppose the bill while also allowing the bill to pass. I am a firm believer that deep down, a fair amount of opposing legislators actually want this bill to pass. It is a win-win for them. They get to "stand their ground" and oppose this piece of corporate welfare, and if it passes they won't have to deal with the possibilty of something happening to the Twins.

That is why I have so much respect for legislators like Kelliher, Sykora, and Neil Peterson. These are Hennepin County legislators that understand what a wonderful thing it will be to have a $500 million public works project in their county, and what a wonderful thing it will be to have a new ballpark for the citizens of Minnesota.

Enough rambling ...

• OK, what needs to happen next? Let's take a look:

  1. On Wednesday the bill will be debated on the House floor. And you better believe this will be the floor session of the century. I wouldn't be surprised if it lasts until 2 am. Phyllis Kahn alone will take an hour with all her amendments. And of course, there will be another attempt at a referendum amendment. This will be a nasty, snarky floor session, but I predict that the votes are there. Barely, but they are there.
  2. If it passes the floor of the House, it will finally be taken up by the Senate Tax Committee chaired by Larry Pogemiller. Again, this will not be easy. Pogemiller has already made clear two things: 1) he will not vote in favor of the bill without a referendum and 2) he is not in favor of Hennepin County footing the bill. Pogemiller is going to try to combine all 3 stadium bills into one and pay for them all with a metro-wide sales tax. This is a noble idea, don't get me wrong, but this action would effectively kill all three bills. There is no way that the House, especially the legislators from the entire metro-area, would go for this. However, I think there are enough votes in the Senate Tax Committee to vote Pogemiller down. Hopefully we'll get a chance to find out. I'm putting together a list of the Senate Tax Committee members and where they stand for your edification.
  3. After it passes the Senate Tax Committee, it will go to the floor of the Senate for another rip-snorting session full of amendments, name calling, and angry legislators. Should be fun. It has always been assumed that the Senate will have an easier time passing a Twins stadium bill than the House. Hopefully we'll get a chance to find out.
  4. After that, there will be a conference committee because the stadium bill from the House and the stadium bill from the Senate will have differences. So, the conference committee will hash out the differences.
  5. Once the conference committee works out the differences, the Senate and the House will vote on the bill again. Hopefully this will go down more smoothly, but who knows. Again, it should be interesting.
  6. Finally, the bill will go to the Governor, who will have to sign a bill that raises a tax in Hennepin County in an election year. buttmonkey.jpg I think he'll sign it, but he will be feeling some major pressure from anti-stadium groups.
  7. If he signs it, if this bill to build a new Twins stadium is signed into law, monkeys will fly out of my butt. It will be painful, but it will be worth it.

That's it for now. Catch ya on the flip side...

Posted by snackeru at 8:07 AM | Comments (9)

April 24, 2006

Ways and Means Committee updates

UPDATE I: Well, here it is. 7:57 PM and Phil Krinkie has moved a referendum amendment. This is it people. If ithe bill can get past this, it will pass the committee. If not, well, that would suck. I will let you know ...

UPDATE II: The grandstanding is at the highest level I have ever seen. Ugh. Just vote for it or don't. Thank goodness Dorman is talking some sense. He is saying there isn't an 11th Commandment that says "Thou shalt have a referendum on all sales taxes." Hilarious. Stay tuned for the vote.

UPDATE III: The referendum amendment failed 17-15!!! It is looking good people, very, very good. Baseball in Minnesota lives another day! Oh man, I was shaking on this one.,,

UPDATE IV: Knoblach is trying to get the sales tax ememption on building materials lifted, an obvious attempt to punish someone for this bill. Rod Hamilton rightly pointed out that lifting the exemption of the sales tax on building materials will only raise the tax overall and that Hennepin County residents will have to pick up this extra $87 million. This is a phenomenally stupid amendment. I must admit I didn't fully understand it, but it was soundly defeated 9-26, with even a lot of anti-stadium legislator votes.

UPDATE V: Carlson is moving an amendment that would require MLB sign an agreement that would assure the Twins remain in Minnesota for at least 30 years. Finstad has offered to work with Carlson to craft something that would be amenable to MLB. The amendment was adopted. This is interesting. I'm not sure that MLB has ever done something like this before, and I would actually like to see it happen. We'll see how this shakes out. Could be problematic.

UPDATE VI: Paymar is moving an amendment that removes the requirement statewide for referendums on local option sales taxes. It is a "fariness" issue according to Paymar. If the Twins get an exemption why shouldn't everyone? Very interesting. It appears Paymar is just being snarky because even his colleagues seem to be against it. It has been soundly defeated. The more I think about it, the more I think this amendment would have made this bill tough to pass on the floor.

UPDATE VII: The amendments are over. The vote is coming. Interestingly enough, the Strib home page is already announcing "Twins stadium bill clears last House panel." Are they clairvoyant or something? I think they are mistaking the referendum vote for the vote on the actual bill. Idiots.

UPDATE VIII: Krinkie is moving to reconsider the referendum amendment. Wow. He is not going to make this easy. It was defeated again 16-18.

UPDATE VIII: There it is! Dorman has mentioned that the stadium should be built in St. Paul. There you go Jim in St. Paul. Dorman is also praising Rep. Kelliher for being the only Minneapolis legislator to support this bill. She responded by mentioning that their may be one other Minneapolis legislator that will support the bill. Very interesting. It reminds me of Yoda's comment when he said, "No, there is another." Who is this mystery Minneapolis legislator?

UPDATE IX: Ugh. Another amendment has been offered, fortunately by the pro-stadium Kelliher. Hopefully this will be done soon.

UPDATE X: Steve Smith just said that he doesn't agree with the bill but that he will vote to move it out of the Ways and Means committee. Very interesting. Has Sviggum asked him to vote Yes just to get it to the floor? Larson is saying he is for the stadium, but he wishes it was a statewide or even regional tax. Again, very interesting. I think we are going to see this kind of idea when Pogemiller gets a hold of it in the Senate Taxes Committee.

UPDATE XI: The bill passed 18-16. Finally. More comment tomorrow. Have a good night everyone!

Posted by snackeru at 7:58 PM | Comments (13)

Ways and Means Committee meeting time

• Got this note from the Twins ballpark people:

We just received word that the House Ways and Means committee will be meeting today at 5 pm, Room 200 in the State Office Building, 100 Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd. We encourage everyone to attend and wear Twins clothing to signify your support of the Twins/Hennepin County Stadium Plan.

As you probably already know, the bill passed a critical test last week in the House Taxes Committee. Your attendance at that meeting made a dramatic statement that this is the year to build a new ballpark.

The final step in the house will be Wednesday or Thursday of this week.

We will keep you posted on the timing of that meeting.

So, there you go. It should be an interesting evening.

Posted by snackeru at 12:30 PM

It is all about the Ways and Means Committee

• So, how was your weekend? Did you spend some time in the outdoors? Good, good ... Me? Oh mine was alright. I broke out the old barbeque on Sunday and grilled up some burgers ... ummmm ... pleasant weather we've been having, wouldn't you say? Although I heard there is a cold front moving in ... should be cold tonight .... (awkward silence .... ). Um, what else should we talk about?

ENOUGH! Enough of the niceties. Let's get down to business. There is a Twins stadium that needs passing and we are just the people that are going to make it happen! Today, the Ways and Means Committee will convene after the House floor session, so there is still time to let your voice be heard to the members of this committee. Check out this breakdown of the Ways and Means Committee. See all those question marks? In my opinion, these are the votes that could sway.

If you've got a second this morning, at the very least send these members of the committee an email gently persuading them to vote yes on the bill. Believe it or not, some representatives actually count up their yes and no emails so let your voice be heard! And for those of you that have already emailed the committee, if you have any insight into where the votes will go, please let me know!

I don't think the committee will actually vote on the bill tonight, I am thinking that will happen tomorrow, but I could be wrong. Anyway, it should be a lively debate again. I have the votes at 20 for and 18 against which means only one vote has to change to a no for the bill to be halted. This is important people!

That's all I've got time for, for now. More later ...

Posted by snackeru at 8:16 AM | Comments (2)

April 21, 2006

I'm going to take some time to enjoy this

For those of you just joining "The Stadium Game" we still have a pretty long way to go. However, before I get into all that, I'm just going to take some time to revel in the victory of today. I mean, wow! A workable stadium bill, a bill that could actually result in a stadium, has passed through the House Taxes Committee! Am I dreaming?

And here is another wonderful thing: for the first time in about 10 years I am watching a Twins game with confidence that the Twins have a future in Minnesota. Do any of you have any idea what a wonderful feeling that is? Think about it ... by 2010 the Twins could be playing on green grass, under the sun, in a state-of-the-art brand, spanking new ballpark. That is nice to think about.

However, back to reality. The 2006 Twins stadium bill passed through the House Taxes Committee today and thanks to Myles (thanks Myles!) we know the votes went like this:

Yes(15): Anderson, Atkins, Brod, Davids, Dill, Dorman, Koenen, Lanning, Lesch, Marquart, Nelson, Rukavina, Sieben, Simpson, Westerberg

No(13): Krinkie, Lenczewski, Abrams, Bernardy, Davnie, Jaros, Erhardt, Howes, Knoblach, Kohls, Mullery, Vanderveer, Zellers

No Vote(1): Delaforest

So, I was two off in my prediction. Bernardy and Jaros didn't come through for us. And does anyone know why Jaros didn't vote at all? [Correction: As BT has already written, it seems Delaforest was absent (not Jaros), and he may have even stormed out.] I also found it humorous that Erhardt passed the first time his name was called, saw that the bill would pass without his vote, and decided then to vote No. It is probably a common practice, but I still think some legislators should grow a backbone.

One of the amendments on the bill does appear to be somewhat problematic. According to the Pioneer Press:

The Taxes Committee considered several amendments Friday in a hearing that was far more sedate than a boisterous Thursday meeting in Bloomington, where stadium proponents and opponents made their voices heard.

The committee passed one amendment capping Hennepin County's infrastructure spending to $90 million.

My opinion is that this is bad. But I'm going to ask around to get the straight skinny. From what I've read, though, the infrastructure costs are probably higher than $90 million. We'll see.

So, you might be wondering what happens next. Well, this was just another hurdle. Now the bill goes to the House Ways and Means Committee. I've also made some predictions for this committee, and again it doesn't look like this will be easy. Of course, I think it will pass, but it will be close.

What gives me a lot of optimism, though, is that Sviggum is making some bold statements that the bill could get to the floor of the House by Wednesday. For him to say that makes me think that it is expected the bill will mvoe through the Ways and Means Committee quickly. And if it gets to the floor, I predict the votes are there.

If it passes on the floor of the House, the Senate will start to move on it. But let's not think about that just yet. For now, I am going to be happy. I am going to revel in today's victory. So, have a good weekend everybody! Let's all enjoy some Twins baseball and start thinking about this again on Monday.

Posted by snackeru at 8:50 PM | Comments (3)

Holy cow ... is this ever boring

You know usually I am really, really enthused about watching a House legislative committee concerning my favorite topic of stadiums. But this is like watching paint dry. Krinkie wasn't kidding when he said two weeks ago that he wanted to give Tax Committee members a chance to put together their amendments. Yikes! There are probably 50 that the the committee has to get through, and I think they have about 15 more to go. I've been watching/listening to this since 10:00.

From what I've seen and heard, the bill is still a workable bill. I haven't seen every single amendment, but I know that there are a couple of amendments that have been attached that Finstad was against. We'll have to see if those amendments are problematic in any way and I'm sure we'll find out soon if that is the case. The most interesting amendment came from Ron Erhardt who wanted to add a roof to the deal. However, he also wanted to tax every county in the state at .06 percent. Thankfully this amendment was defeated as it would have killed the whole deal.

Two things I've learned. 1) I'm sorry, but Ron Erhardt is a little loopy. I think he means well, but it almost seems the other members are just laughing at him. He also had another amendment that wanted to allow Hennepin County to hire the National Guard to keep public order on days where the games have high attendance. The other members seemed to be just dumbfounded by this amendment given that the governor is usually the only person that can bring out the National Guard and people don't really "hire" the National Guard. It was strange. And 2) whenever a legislative committee says they are going to "reconvene at 2:00" this probably means 2:15 or 2:20. Punctuality does not seem to be a big priority to the Taxes Commitee.

I think they are about 2 hours away from a vote. I could be wrong. I'll definitely let you know when it is all over.

UPDATE: Krinkie is trying to get an amendment passed that will give the public a share of the revenues from the stadium given that Hennepin County is paying for "73% of the cost of the facility." Ruckavina asked what the County or Ballpark Authority will do with this extra money, and Krinkie seems to leave that up to the Authority. Krinkie is suggesting that the extra money could pay off the bonds, or go back to the taxpayers. This is a big one. The Twins are not going to like this one.

Finstad is "respectfully disagreeing with this amendment." According to Finstad, operational costs of the ballpark are already being incurred by the Twins to the tune of $10 million per year. Hennepin County is also against, and ...yep! you guessed it! The Twins are against it too.

Roll call vote. It has been defeated by an overwhelming majority! Even Abrams voted no. Phew. That kind of freaked me out.

UPDATE II: You know, I have just had a realization of sorts. I am actually of the opinion that deep down inside, way deep inside, Krinkie actually wants this bill to pass. I would think Abrams probably feels the same way. Stay with me for a second. If the bill passes, Krinkie is still "Dr. No" and he can always say he was against the Twins stadium bill and that he fought against it as hard as he could, and blah, blah, blah. However, if the bill fails, and something happens to the Twins ... well, Krinkie has got to know that will come back to haunt him. He would always be known as "the man that killed major league baseball in Minnesota." Do you see what I mean? Politically, it would make more sense for Krinkie to fight only so hard to make his stance known, but not too hard so that the bill also passes. Crazy or no?

UPDATE III: Even Krinkie is getting sick of all these amendments. He just told Mullery to keep his amendments brief because some legislators have to drive home tonight. Sigh. Well, I gotta go home for now so I am probably going to miss the actual vote on the bill. Someone let me know what the outcome is, especially if you can write down who voted yes and no. Later.

Posted by snackeru at 2:23 PM | Comments (11)

Holy cow ... I am overwhelmed

I can't believe it. The referendum requirement was defeated. IN KRINKIE'S TAXES COMMITTEE!!!! I am just overwhelmed by this news. Finally, finally we are seeing some positive action on this thing. Oh man, I don't even know what to say. So please, I ask all of you again:

Did you go to the hearing? Do you have any interesting stories about the hearing, or any insights into what happened? Please, let us know what you saw or heard in the comments below. I would absolutely love to hear your take on what the feel was in the auditorium.. Please share your experience!

We've already heard from Commissioner Koblick (in the comments on last night's post) and I thank her for her feedback. Believe it or not, as much as we don't agree on this issue, I think Commissioner Koblick is a pretty bright politician who usually has the best intentions. Anyway, enough of that ...

Here are the votes in the committee on the referendum:

Legislators voting NO (and probably YES on the overall bill):

Simpson, Brod, David, Dorman, Lanning, Nelson, Westerberg, Atkins, Dill, Koenen, Marquart, Rukavina, Lesch, Jaros, Sieben = 15
(Anderson would have probably voted NO but he was absent)

Legislators voting YES (and probably NO on the overall bill)

Erhardt, Zellers, Bernardy, Krinkie, Delaforest, Knoblach, Vandeveer, Abrams, Kohls, Lenczewski, Davnie, Mullery, Howes = 13

There aren't really any surprises here. I think I did OK with my predictions. Although I have Bernardy voting YES on the overall bill, she has voiced before that she is in favor of a referendum. She could still vote YES.

Anyway, what a beautiful day! The sun is shining brighter, the birds are chirping louder ... things are going pretty good. Be sure to tune into the Taxes Committee hearing today at 10:00 online for what I expect will be another jolt of happiness!

And let me know what you think, especially if you were there!

UPDATE: I think it would be wise if we all thanked the Tax Committee legislators that had the guts to do the right thing last night by recognizing we live in a representative democracy. So, to make this easier on all of you I have created the link below that will open up your email client and automatically put all the legislators voting no on the referendum last night into the "To:" field.

Email the representatives who voted NO on the referendum last night!

Carry on ...

Posted by snackeru at 6:22 AM | Comments (10)

April 20, 2006

Sigh. I'm not in Bloomington.

• This is a rambling, probably boring, post. I'm not sure I am giving any interesting information, so read if you want or don't. No biggie.

• You may not be able to believe this, but I am not actually at the hearing. The Tax Committee Circus with Ringmaster Phil Krinkie is going on without me. I don't know why I feel like I have to explain myself, but the fact of the matter is as a father of 3 kids I have too much going on all of the time. Tonight I attended a Cub Scout Pack meeting with my 7 year old son. I am the Tiger Den Leader, and 4 of my scouts were getting their Tiger badges. That is kind of a big deal. Plus, my Den was scheduled to be the Color Guard. So, I made the tought decision to skip the Tax Committee hearing.

And I don't regret it. It was the right decision. The Pack meeting was fun, and I heard rumors that the Tax Committee would not be able to vote on the bill tonight anyway. Plus, I am pretty confident I have made a nice contribution to the Twins stadium effort already. So, there you have it.

You know what really ticks me off, though? Krinkie's effort to "bring democracy to the people" actually decreased the number of people this hearing reached because it wasn't on legislative TV and it wasn't broadcast over the Internet. The only way anyone outside of Oak Grove in Bloomington could listen to the Committee meeting was through WCCO, which I must admit I didn't even know about. I'm listening now, but it sounds like everything is over.

Mike Max has interviewed Mike Opat, Penny Steele, Steve Sviggum, and Phil Krinkie so far. Sviggum had some really nice and strong comments in favor of the plan, and Krinkie actually admitted that this is the best plan the Twins have come up with so far. That doesn't mean he is in favor of the plan, of course, but it was a shock to hear him say anything favorable about the plan. He also reiterated that his main opposition to the plan centers around the fact that the Twins are asking the public to pay for more than infrastructure. He said he didn't mind paying for roads or other infrastructure around the ballpark, but having the public pay for the bulk of the stadium itself ... well he has a big problem with that. Sviggum shot back that the state gives a ton of assistance to a lot of businesses beyond infrastructure, which Krinkie seemed to concede. Of course, I think it all comes down to the fact that a ballpark costs so stinking much. Anyway, it was interesting.

Sviggum also said that he thinks the bill could get to the House floor by next week and that he expects it to pass. Can you believe that? Next week? Oh boy, I can't even imagine this thing passing. I think I would have a heart attack. Someone better get a defibrillator ready!

Mike Max pointed out to Krinkie that the crowd at Oak Grove seemed to be at least 6 to 1 in favor of the Twins. That is good to hear. Krinkie almost seemed to be conceding defeat, too, and Max asked him if he expects the bill to pass. Krinkie didn't admit it, but it sounded like Krinkie can see the writing on the wall.

Max is interviewing Joe Atkins and Jim Davnie now, two members of the Taxes Committee. Atkins has admitted that he is leaning towards voting in favor of the plan without a referendum (as predicted) and Davnie is pretty much saying he is against. Again, nothing really unexpected is happening here.

Did anyone go to the hearing? Do you have any interesting stories about the hearing, or any insights into what happened? Please, let us know what you saw or heard in the comments below. I would absolutely love to hear your take on what the feel was in the auditorium.. Please share your experience!

• Finally, it has been announced that the hearing will continue tomorrow (Friday) at the Capitol. This is when we'll get to see if this bill can 1) get out of the Taxes Committee and 2) do so without a referendum attached. You better believe I'll be following that hearing.

More tomorrow, I'm sure.

UPDATE: Well apparently the hearing is still going on (it is 10:10 PM right now). I just heard on the 10:00 news that they are debating the referendum as I type this. If the referendum is defeated, well, that will be a pretty good indicator of where this bill is headed. We'll see...

Posted by snackeru at 8:31 PM | Comments (7)

Nothing unexpected

So, we all watched the Tax Committee hearing for the stadium bill yesterday. If you didn't see it, you can see all 4 hours and 10 minutes of it on the Tax Committee television archives. According to the Pioneer Press, 24 pro-stadium testimonies were heard last night with only 2 speakers in opposition, and at least one of those in opposition was against the plan because it didn't tax the entire state. All in all, I think the hearing went rather well.

However, you wouldn't know that if you only read Mark Kaszuba of the Star Tribune. I know he is trying to be impartial, I know that he is trying to give both sides of the story, but his article on the hearing makes it sound like Twins supporters were overwhelmed by well-reasoned and intelligent arguments from members of the Tax Committee. One of his examples of this was when Ron Erhardt challenged whether or not this bill would actually result in a stadium:

Some legislators Wednesday said they had trouble understanding how the Twins' latest proposal differed from others that had failed at the Legislature in the past.

"Why is this any better?" asked Rep. Ron Erhardt, R-Edina.

"If we pass this, this will get the job done," Finstad said.

But Rep. Phil Krinkie, R-Lino Lakes, the committee chairman and a formidable opponent of publicly subsidized stadiums, was unmoved. "As someone who was there, that's what they said then, too," he said.

This isn't entirely how it went. Erhardt said that he voted for the plan in 2002 and that it didn't result in a new stadium, so why should he think that this plan would actually result in a new ballpark? First of all, I don't think there was a legislator worth his or her salt in the House that actually thought the Ventura/Sausen arbitrage scheme of 2002 would actually result in a ballpark. In fact, even before the House voted on the 2002 bill the Twins came out and said it would not work. I remember corresponding with my own representative at the time, Jim Rhodes, who did not vote for the plan mainly because the Twins were against it. So for Erhardt to come out and say what he said demonstrates at worst a lack of intelligence and at best a very suspect memory. And as for Krinkie's comment ... well, we all know what Krinkie is up to.

The more I think I about it, the more obvious it becomes that Mark Kaszuba is anti-stadium and that all of his articles are tainted with this viewpoint. It is a shame, too. In other words, if you want a little more of an impartial view on the proceedings please read Aron Kahn of the Pioneer Press. At least you wouldn't know if he is for the stadium or against it. And if you really want an impartial view, what the heck are you doing reading this?

• Well, based on legislator's comments yesterday, correspondence I've had with the representatives, comments they've made to the papers, and comments I've received from you, dear reader, I think I can finally make a prediction concerning the House Tax committee. According to all of this, my count currently stands at 12 against, and 17 for the bill. Am I 100% confident in this? No, of course not. In fact, of Bernardy, Jaros, Nelson, Sieben ... one or two of these legislators could vote no. Even if that happened, though, it would still be 14 no and 15 yes. And check out this letter I received yesterday from a legislator on the Tax Committee who wishes to remain anonymous:

Shane:

I actually was undecided until yesterday. And I know better than to tell anyone I'm undecided or suffer the onslaught of "persuasion" from every quarter. Yesterday, for reasons that are too complex to get into here, I committed my vote to Finstad. From what I can see, and have seen, Finstad has actually had the Tax Committee votes for the bill for several weeks, but to his credit he's still working everyone over like it's neck and neck.

Does this mean we can sit back and revel in our upcoming good fortune? No. Don't get complacent. I still wouldn't be surprised one iota if the votes in the Tax Committee completely fell apart. Let's all keep at it.

• And now, I'd like to show you all some pictures I have received from a local architecture firm (Hammel, Green and Abrahamson) who have sent me some of their drawings of the new ballpark and the surrounding area. And watch out, some of these pictures are huge! I left them large so that you could see some of the nuances of the design:

A view of the ballpark from the inside looking across to the left field seats and the apartments overlooking the stadium.
I kind of like this picture. And who wouldn't want an apartment overlooking the ballpark?!?!? In the words of the Napoleon Dynamite, that would be "sweet."

The master view as seen from above
Please watch out for this one! it is a big one, but only because it has to be to give you a clearer picture of everything around the stadium. Note that the ballpark seems to be a little more north than the Ballpark Rally set up of last week.

3-D view of the ballpark with skyline.
Again, this one is extremely large. I love this picture. It gives a really clear view of where the ballpark will be situated and it gives a better view of what the ballpark will look like. Beautiful.

A picture of the development around the stadium
This is a picture of what the developers are calling the North Loop Village. Again, this development will surround the ballpark.

• Anyway, that's all I got for now. Special thanks to Hammel, Green, and Abrahamson architects for the pictures! Tonight should be pretty exciting and for once in the 10 years of this debate I am feeling pretty good about the expected outcome. Of course, if anyone has anything else to add, please feel free.

Posted by snackeru at 8:18 AM | Comments (12)

April 19, 2006

I can't help myself

• You know, I really thought I could let this one go. I thought to myself, "Shane, it just isn't worth it. Gollum is just trying to get your goat, and nothing you can say or do is going to change that." But I really can't help myself. I am just blown away at the exaggeration and hyperbole in Nick Coleman's column today. It almost makes my writing look thoughtful and intelligent! And for those of you that have read this blog for a long time, you know that is hard to do. Anyway, Coleman still seems to be concerned about his "precious" pennies, but I thought this string of sentences took the cake:

Today, with the exhausted opposition to welfare for billionaires collapsing, we are on the verge of gutting the law in order to put up a palace for the Minnesota Twins, opening the door to billions more for sports while everything we used to hold dear -- public education, public safety, public health -- goes down the toilet.

"Bonfire of the Vanities" has finally come to Minnesota, 19 years after Tom Wolfe's portrait of New York City as a place where wealth and privilege, racism and greed ruled.

Trends take awhile to reach us. But we're tragically hip now.

Wow. Wow, wow, wow. I am just stupified at this. Of all the arguments that a ballpark opponent can bring out, the argument that building a ballpark will somehow hurt education is the worst. For one the two issues are mutually exclusive, and more importantly, history tells us that NOT building a ballpark has absolutely no effect on education spending. Think about it. After 10 years of not building a Twins stadium, how much extra money has education received in our state? That's right: NOTHING! Not a dime extra has gone to education as a result of our legislators pissing away plan after plan in an attempt to protect us from the evil Twins.

I tell you what. I would welcome a switch to use the money in the Hennepin County plan to fund education. Absolutely, take that money, take that 3 cents on every $20 and put it towards education. But you know what? Our wonderful elected leaders would rather do nothing. I know this because that is what they've done for the past 10 years. So given that choice, given the choice between inadequate funding for education and no new ballpark, or indadequate funding for education and building a new ballpark, I'll take the latter choice every time.

And not to belabor the point, why don't they tack on another 3 cents and do both? Why not? These two issues do not have to compete against each other, and in fact they really don't.

Secondly, Coleman brings out a literary allusion concerning the Bonfire of the Vanities and suggests that Minnesota is about to reach the pinnacle of decadence. Holy crap ... just because we are building a ballpark? It doesn't even make sense! There has been something like 30 other stadiums built in America in the last 20 years and I don't see any of those cities imploding. In fact, look at Minnesota in the last 50 years. We've built Met Stadium, the Target Center, the Mall of America, the Metrodome, the Xcel Energy Center ... all of these private places of business were built with some form of public assistance. And speaking of the Metrodome, the public paid for over 90% of that building. Has it been worth it? And Coleman's favorite building, the Xcel Energy Center, that was basically given to the Wild for a pittance. So, Nick, haven't we already reached Bonfire status? Or have all these buildings made the Twin Cities a better place to live?

It is just plain comical. Does anyone really believe the doom and gloom Coleman spits out over building a ballpark?

• Finally, I'd like to reprint a comment I received yesterday from "Grant" a long time reader of the Greet Machine and long time contributor. In fact, if it wasn't for Grant there would be no Voter's Guide. Anyway, Grant had this to say:


"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."

How many cities have gone through this before? Cleveland (Browns), Houston (Oilers/Texans), Charlotte (Hornets/Bobcats), Washington DC (Senators/Nationals), Minnesota (Lakers/T-Wolves, North Stars/Wild) ... any that Grant and I are missing? Let's just put it this way, it will be cheaper to bite the bullet and do this deal now.

In closing, I am hearing that the votes are there to get out of the Tax Committee. If anyone else has anything to share I am all ears.

Posted by snackeru at 8:22 AM | Comments (22)

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 8:20 AM | Comments (15)

April 16, 2006

This is a very important week

• I hesitate to say that this is one of the most important weeks in Twins history; we've heard that before. But the outcomes of this week could indeed dictate the future of the franchise. Of course, I am talking about the House Tax committee hearings on the evenings of Wednesday and Thursday this week. I was forwarded a note from Dave St. Peter, President of the Twins, in which he had this to say:

In a unique move, Representative Phil Krinkie, chair of the House Tax Committee, has decided to hold two meetings to hear the Twins bill. The first meeting will take place on Wednesday, April 19 at 3 p.m. at the Capitol where testimony in favor of the bill will occur. The second meeting will take place on Thursday, April 20 at 6 p.m. at the Oak Grove Middle School auditorium in Bloomington where testimony in opposition to the bill will occur.

We are currently working to develop a slate of people to testify on Wednesday in favor of the bill including Twins fans, community organizations, former players, business and labor representatives.

Given the uncertain nature of Thursday’s meeting at the school, we are working to mobilize as many fans as possible to attend and demonstrate their support for the Twins bill by filling up the auditorium. This is where you come in. We strongly encourage ALL Twins [fans] to attend Thursday evenings’s hearing at Oak Grove Middle School ... And, we ask that all supporters wear something Twins-related to demonstrate your support of the team and the new stadium.

This is serious. The more I think about this "unique move" by Phil Krinkie the more I am bothered by it. Supporters of the bill have to travel to St. Paul in the middle of the afternoon to be heard, while Krinkie is giving those in opposition to the bill an evening start time and an easier place to get to. And all of this is being done under the guise of brining the democratic process to the people. That is a load of crap. If each side of the debate was given equal treatment, if each hearing was being held at Oak Grove Middle School in Bloomington, I might agree. In fact, that would be exciting. But this is such a blatant attempt to give one side of the debate more public sway it is really quite sickening. It is a chess move more than it is an example of democracy at work, and I sincerely hope Krinkie's move totally backfires on him.

If you are planning on attending the "debate" on Thursday evening here are the driving directions to Oak Grove Middle School from Minneapolis: Take I-35W south to the 106th Street Exit. Go west on 106th Street and arrive at 1300 W. 106th Street.

Twins fans should fill the auditorium. Of course we should be respectful of the debate, but I would also hope that cheers could go up anytime something favorable is said concerning the bill.

• And speaking of the "debate" ... hasn't it all been said already? Seriously, are any legislators' minds actually going to be changed on Wednesday or Thursday as a result of the testimony we've all heard so many times before? On Wednesday, Twins fans will speak in favor of the bill from an emotional and historical standpoint. Minneapolis business leaders will speak in favor of the bill in terms of downtown vibrancy and safety, not to mention what 81 games will do for Warehouse district bars and restaurants. Minnesota charities will speak in favor of the bill in terms of all the good that MLB and the Twins do for our state, and how much money the Twins have donated to state charities over the years. The Minneapolis Department of Parks and Recreation will probably speak on how valuable it is to have MLB in our state and how much it promotes baseball and the use of the ball fields in the city. And the AFL-CIO will probably speak to the fact of how important it will be to have all those jobs for the construction workers of the Twin Cities.

On Thursday night the same old antagonists will also give the same old tired arguments. Kenneth Zapp, an economist from Metro State University, will speak yet again against the plan saying the County is giving too much of the revenue to the Twins and how we should negotiate a deal more like the one in St. Louis (which was a pretty sweet deal for the Cardinals). Laura Lehmann of "Citizens for a Ballpark Referendum" will ask for ... yes, you guessed it! A referendum! Bruce Pomerantz, a citizen from Fridley will tell the commitee that if the Twins get this deal, then it sets a precedent that the Vikings will take advantage of (God forbid!). And Daniel Dobson of the "No Stadium Tax Coalition" will say the proposal is neither fair nor honest to taxpayers. This is all a given.

Here is what I think: we've heard all the same arguments. What is the point of all of this? The Tax committee hearing could get done in 20 minutes by first voting for or against a referendum amendment and then voting for or against the actual bill. 20 minutes! The rest of this is all for the benefit of grandstanding legislators. I ask again: is any of this "debate" actually going to change the mind of any legislator? I seriously wonder ...

• And speaking of legislators and other politicians, Joe Soucheray hit the nail on the head by lambasting our illustrious politicians while describing his 23rd reversal to now being in favor of the Hennepin County ballpark plan:

What turned me around this time was a photograph in the Enemy Paper on Tuesday morning about a guy in Washington, D.C., who works as a female impersonator at a club that would be demolished to make way for a new, publicly subsidized ballpark for the Washington Nationals. This guy was opposed to a new park and said that the only time he would go there "would be for protests.'' The implication seemed to be that hard-working female impersonators should not have to pay for a new ballpark for millionaire owners.

That's it. I'm on board. When it comes down to a new ballpark or preserving the working environment for female impersonators, I'm going with baseball.

Hilarious. But what Joe had me nodding my head even more over was the fact that our politicians are weak and "without fortitude." They are, quite frankly, afraid of their own shadows and wouldn't know a good deal if it bit them in the ass.

Minneapolis has no effective leadership. They stand to gain a $500 million public-works project and don't have a single solitary soul in the elected ranks who can make a case for it because they are all afraid of their various constituencies.

The state of Minnesota could get a new outdoor stadium and keep baseball for 3 cents on $20. We provide our public assistance recipients with enough money to afford 3 cents on $20. Well, people say, if it's a state benefit, maybe it should be a statewide tax then. It could be, I suppose, if you had anybody in the state who could get something done. I believe it is called taking the bull by the horns.

From the governor on down we have elected people who are gridlocked by conflicting ideologies the minute they take office.

I couldn't have said it any better myself. I gotta go to bed for now. More tomorrow, I'm sure.


Posted by snackeru at 8:20 PM | Comments (9)

April 13, 2006

V

v.jpg

"Ah, but a revolution without dancing is not a revolution worth having."

Posted by snackeru at 9:38 PM | Comments (7)

Just found out

The Hennepin County tax to pay for the Twins ballpark will not include a tax on automobile purchases. That's right, if you buy a car in Hennepin County you will not be taxed for the ballpark. And as you've probably heard before, you will not pay the tax when buying groceries or medicine, either.

Back to work now, all of you!

Posted by snackeru at 1:20 PM | Comments (5)

April 12, 2006

Krinkie is a crafty devil

This is a letter from state representative Ann Lenczewski. Read it and weep:

I am writing to invite Bloomington residents to a public hearing of the Minnesota House Tax Committee in Bloomington on Thursday, April 20th at 6:00 p.m. We will be discussing and voting on whether or not to tax the residents of Hennepin County to build a Twins stadium.

Earlier this legislative session the Tax Chair asked if any legislators would be willing to host committee hearings locally so that Minnesotans could see our democratic process without having to drive to the Capitol during the work day. As the lead-minority member of the of the committee, I immediately offered Bloomington as a host site and am pleased that the Tax Chair has taken me up on my offer.

Whether you oppose or support the Twins proposal or are unsure, I strongly encourage you to come to Oak Grove Middle School next Thursday evening. This issue is extremely relevant to Bloomington residents given the fact that the bill proposes a tax subsidy from all Bloomington residents. Also, the House Tax Committee will be deciding whether or not the residents of Hennepin County would retain their right under current law to vote on this issue or not. Please note, the current stadium proposal would ask only the residents of Hennepin County to pay taxes to build the stadium while those Minnesotans who reside in the other 86 counties across the state would not contribute in any significant way to the construction of a Twins stadium.

As this is a local and statewide topic of interest, we expect there will be members of the media on hand looking to hear your views on the stadium plan. I hope to see you on April 20th at Oak Grove Middle School located at 1300 W. 106th Street at 6:00 p.m.

Sincerely,

Ann Lenczewski

State Representative

Here are my thoughts on this development. First of all, taking this debate out of a stuffy room in the capitol and putting it into a middle school in Bloomington, the heart of Hennepin County, is a pretty shrewd move from an anti-stadium legislator like Krinkie. I can only imagine what Lenczewski is planning and who she is planning on bringing in to speak against the Hennepin County plan.

I have also heard a rumor that Krinkie is planning on holding this hearing over a two day period, with the first day reserved for pro-stadium advocates, and the second day reserved for anti-American individuals. It is no accident that anti-stadium people will be given the last chance to speak. And again, since this is in Bloomington Krinkie is hoping that there are a lot of anti-stadium types ready to voice their opinion.

Wow. As if the Tax Committee wasn't going to be hard enough, now Krinkie is turning the hearing into a circus. Being in a middle school will allow more people to attend and I'm sure there will be signs (both pro and con) and a very vocal peanut gallery. Yikes. Here is hoping that a lot of pro-stadium individuals can make it out to Bloomington to speak in favor of the plan. Please, please, please consider attending if you support the Hennepin County plan.

Posted by snackeru at 9:34 PM | Comments (11)

More stuff no one will probably want to read

• Oh, am I ever feeling it. Yes, I am feeling the "mailaise" that comes when you are so sick of talking about something, but at the same you are so addicted to it you just can't stop. Read or don't read, it is up to you.

• So, I was walking home last Thursday from the bus stop. If you'll recall, last Thursday the Twin Cities saw quite a nice little rain storm, and unfortunately for me my house is a good distance from where the bus drops me off. As I was saying, I was walking home from the bus stop and I was just getting soaking wet. In fact, I was so wet I couldn't even see clearly through all the rain and water on my face. Just as I get up to my house, Cheesehead Craig drives up, sees how drenched I am, rolls down his window and yells out, "God is anti-stadium!" And then he drives away.

Yep, I think he is right. If God isn't anti-stadium in general (over 30 have been built in the U.S. in the last 20 years), He is definitely anti-Twins stadium. So, not only do we have to get past the Taxes commiittee, we've got to get past God too? That is going to be tough.

• Sometimes I think other people should be writing this blog. For about two years I was writing some really good stuff. Stuff full of research and valid points and thought provoking material. Now? I'm not so sure. Anyway, my good buddy freealonzo has sent me a letter he recently wrote to one of the Hennepin County Commissioners. And even though I didn't ask him, I am still going to print it because it is pretty good:

I'm resigned to the fact that I am not going to convince you that your stand on the Twins ballpark is wrong (it is) but I do take issue with your characterization that a 0.0015 percent sales tax means that the Twins Ballpark is being financed "on the backs" of county taxpayers.

First as you well know, with sales tax not applying to clothes or groceries, there is a level of progressivity in our sales tax system. Second, even though the rate is the same on all taxable items, the buying patterns of poorer and richer individuals adds even more progressivity to the system. Here's an example. When you buy a new $40,000 SAAB, with the Twins deal, you pay an additional $60.00 in sales tax. Someone who is a lower income individual may buy a used $8,000 Buick LeSabre at a dealership and is paying $12 additional sales tax. If he's buying it from his cousin, he's probably not paying any sales tax. So two individuals, buying something similar (a car) and you are paying 5 times more sales tax. Same goes for other goods: flat screen TVs v. tube TV, Dinner at Figlio v. Dinner at Arbys, coffee table at Gabberts v. coffee table at Ikea, IAMS dog food v. Purina. Finally if you are so concerned about tax burden, I would think you would run on a platform that changes our practically regressive property tax system! (In the 10 years I've owned my home in East Harriet, my property taxes tripled. Needless to say my income has not tripled over the same time period).

Finally at 0.0015 percent, the tax is minuscule. Even in my $40,000 SAAB example above you are only paying an additional $60.00. For most people, regardless of income, they will hardly even notice the additional tax (less than a dime at a typical Target run). Furthermore, since Hennepin County takes in about 25 percent of its sales tax proceeds from individuals living outside the County, the impact on County residents will be that much smaller. In the end, it strains the imagination to think that the ballpark is being financed "on the backs" of county residents, its more like on the pinky toe of taxpayers.

I know being against a ballpark is a good pander to those active in DFL politics (well except for the construction trades) and will probably take you far in your political career, however hyperbole and scare tactics are a poor way to govern and are a major reason why our electorate is so polarized. Frankly, I'm not impressed.

Amen brother. If anyone else has pro-stadium arguments like this, please send them to me. I'd love to make this a clearing house of truth, justice, mom, and apple pie.

That's all I got for now. Talk to you later.

Posted by snackeru at 8:22 AM | Comments (15)

April 11, 2006

A beautiful day for outdoor baseball

Hello everyone! As promised, here are some pictures of the Twins Ballpark Rally held in downtown Minneapolis yesterday. It was a great event and I had a wonderful time watching some outdoor baseball provided by Little League players from across the Metro. I attended the event with my brother in law Tim, but while there I also met up with freealonzo (nice chatting with you!) and Jim in St. Paul. Of course, Jim in St. Paul was wearing his "St. Paul YES!" t-shirt to let everyone know he stil prefers a ballpark on the east side of the Mississippi, but his presence was very much appreciated to lend support to the current effort. Nice meeting you finally Jim! We've been at this a long time, and it looks like we've still got a ways to go.

This first picture is a view of what the skyline will look like from the new ballpark. Not too shabby:

View of skyline

Here is a view from the first base side. Note the "garbage burner" in the background. You'll be happy to hear that I wouldn't even have noticed it if someone didn't point it out to me. No smells whatsoever. Plus the back of the ballpark will tower over the facility.

View from first base

While at the rally we were treated to delicious snacks like cheesy popcorn and, of course, Cracker Jacks. Plus, the organizers handed out free pop. I chose to drink "Mountain Fury" because the name just sounded so cool, while Tim chose "Orange." I guess the makers of Roundy's pop ran out of creativity once they got past the name "Mountain Fury." And it is true, you probably can't top that name.

Beverages

It is difficult to say exactly where the ballpark will be situated. We all were trying to guess exactly where home plate will really be. Depending on where it is could change ever so slightly how the skyline looks from behind the plate:

Another view from behind home plate

After watching the Little Leaguers play for a while, there was some speechifying by various individuals who organized the event (nice job Mark Oyaas!) and then Mike Opat stepped up to the podium with his son. Opat, my hero, didn't say too much, but he did say that he is more optimistic than he has been for a while, so that was definitely nice to hear.

Mike Opat

And finally, your's truly even got some plugs for this here blog, the Greet Machine, and everything I've done with the Voter's Guide. Let me tell you, that was kind of weird seeing a sign for the Greet Machine. To go from having three readers (Curt in Grand Forks, Cheesehead Craig, and my mom) to having a sign for this blog at a ballpark rally is quite a thrill.

Google the Greet Machine

Hopefully this will be the last year any of us have to hear about stadium bills or ballpark rallys. Hopefully this will finally be the year that our legislature realizes they CAN do something, that they CAN pass a workable stadium bill and finally put this mess behind us. We shall see. As Bell says, optimism isn't a part of our vocabulary anymore, but after seeing some outdoor baseball at this great site yesterday, I still have a little hope.


Posted by snackeru at 8:19 AM | Comments (12)

April 10, 2006

An Open Letter to Nick Coleman

Mr. Coleman--

I don't always agree with what you write, but I appreciate your passion. One thing I definitely don't agree with is your stance on the Twins stadium issue. In fact, I find your stance a little inconsistent. I've read a lot of your past columns from the Pioneer Press, and I have found that you were in favor of the plan that built the Xcel Energy Center. As you know, that arena was built for $130 million, with $65 million from a no interest state loan to the Wild and $65 million from the taxpayers of St. Paul. Why was it OK to subsidize millionaires in this case, but not the Twins? Don't "kids' needs" also come before Bob Naegele? Is it just because you like hockey?

On March 23, 1998 you wrote a column that seemed to justify your stance in favor of the X by saying "[Sen. Roger] Moe forgets the reason the taxpayers balked over a new baseball stadium. We already provided one for the Twins: the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. Similarly, we provided a basketball arena for the Timberwolves and state-of-the-art athletic facilities for the University of Minnesota. The only modern facility lacking in the Twin Cities is a hockey arena."

This was untrue. The Target Center could have easily been used as a hockey arena too. But using your same argument, we definitely do not have a ballpark already for the Twins. The Twins play in a football stadium.

Sorry to ramble on, but to wrap this up I ask you again, why was it OK for us to subsidize millionaires for a hockey arena, but not for a ballpark?

Sincerely,

Shane

Posted by snackeru at 1:24 PM | Comments (3)

Should be an interesting day

• Just as a reminder, there will be a Ballpark Rally today from 4:30 to 6:30 at the Rapid Park ballpark site in downtown Minneapolis. I've heard there will be speeches, and games, and just a flat out good time for everyone. I will be there and I hope you can make it too. Also, for those of you that can't make it, I will be bringing my camera and I'll have a full report tomorrow.

• I just got an email from freealonzo that should also put a little bounce in everyones' step today. Freealonzo has forwarded me a note he acquired written by Mike Opat that says Hennepin County has officially begun negotiations with the Twins. Some of the text reads:

As you know, on April 3 the Senate's State and Local Government Operations Committee heard Senator Steve Kelley's ballpark bill, Senate File 2297. The legislation was recommended to pass and re-referred to the Senate Tax Committee.

At the hearing, the Committee's Chair, Senator Linda Higgins, requested that Hennepin County and the Minnesota Twins renew negotiations and if successful, put together a 2006 ballpark agreement in advance of the Tax Committee hearing.

Consistent with County Board Resolution 06-2-98S4R1, County staff has been directed to renew discussions with the Minnesota Twins to comply with this legislative request. The County will utilize the same team of negotiators that developed the 2005 agreement ...

We are optimistic that by using last year's proposal as the general framework, a new agreement can be negotiated in time for the April 11 Committee Meetings, and a 2006 ballpark proposal can be considered at the April 18 County Board meeting.

April 11, obviously, is tomorrow. So, we may be reading about a new agreement between Hennepin County and the Twins in the Strib and PiPress today or tomorrow. That should be very interesting and I look forward to it.

• I got a chance to listen to the Sports Huddle with Sid and Dave yesterday and early on in the show one of the callers was Steve Sviggum himself. Mr. Sviggum didn't say anything too earth shattering except that he reiterated his support for the Hennepin County plan and he said that the bill will be heard at the April 18th or 19th House Taxes Committee meeting.

What I found interesting about his comments, though, was that I suddenly got the feeling, the impression, that Sviggum is working behind the scenes to get this bill to the House floor, and he is working hard at it. I don't know why, but I am getting the feeling that he is pushing hard to get the Taxes Committee to pass this bill so that it can finally be voted on by the full house, up or down.

I certainly hope that is the case, but I'm not going to get my hopes up yet. We'll see what kinds of reactions the new agreement gets from our illustrious legislative leaders. I hope the Twins pony up enough to swing some votes in the Taxes Committee.

• Finally, and this is not stadium related, I watched the movie Crash last night. What a phenomenal movie. I was totally blown away by it. Definitely one of the best movies about racism and prejudice I have ever seen. I was riveted to the screen. I know there was some controversy as to whether or not this should have beaten out Brokeback Mountain for best picture, but I can't imagine a movie about gay cowboys was more thought provoking than this one. Someone correct me if I am wrong. Crash does a great job of showing you the subtleties of racism along side the more pronounced displays, and it challenges the viewer to realize his or her own prejudices. We all probably watch this movie thinking, "I'm nothing like these people." But when push comes to shove, what are we really like? Deep down inside? Very, very thought provoking.

• See you all later.

Posted by snackeru at 8:37 AM | Comments (4)

April 7, 2006

So the House can pass a stadium bill!

Color me amazed. The House actually passed a workable stadium bill. Of course I am thrilled for the University of Minnesota and as an employee of this fine institution I am excited to see the construction of the new stadium. But as you might expect, I must look at this recent development through an obvious lens: how does this recent development help our beloved Twins? Is there a light at the end of the tunnel for all of us (Vikings fans included)?

But before I get into that, I have a few comments about the proceedings last night.

• Ron Erhardt made me almost stand up and cheer last night. According to my own Voter's Guide Mr. Erhardt is anti-Twins stadium, but last night he sent a jab Krinkie's way that had me rolling. Because Krinkie is such a moron he actually put forth an amendment that would decrease the state's contribution by $3.4 million because according to the U's own documentation the Gopher athletic department stood to make $3.4 million extra if this stadium is built. His justification for this amendment is both beyond reason and is just plain moronic. Anyway, Erhardt got up after Krinkie introduced his amendment and said, "Representative Krinkie, I was going to support Jim Knoblach's candidacy for the 6th Congressional District, but now I am going to support you just to get you the hell out of here!"

Oh man, did I ever laugh. I've had the same idea for quite a while now.

• Phylllis Kahn is pretty loopy. I don't think anyone would argue with that. Last night she introduced an amendment to require a student body-wide referendum to ask students whether they want to pay for the stadium or not. Of course, this amendment was pretty easily defeated.

But that wasn't what was so amazing about this. What was amazing to me was that Ron Abrams, former chair of the House Taxes committee and with Krinkie a member of the Anti-Twins Dynamic Duo, used some startling arguments against the referendum requirement. First he said that today's students won't even be paying for the new stadium since this student fee would only kick in when stadium construction starts. That is certainly true. Why should today's student body be able to vote on something that won't even affect them? It makes me wonder why Hennepin County should be the only ones to vote on a state asset like the Twins? And furthermore, why should today's residents of Hennepin County be able to vote on something that will affect future residents of the County? Hmmm ... makes me think that a representative government, perhaps a representative democracy, may be the way to go on this one. You know, a representative government that has the guts to make a decision on my behalf, to maybe do the job I elected them to do. Anyone know where I can find a representative government around these parts?

Then, and this both sickened and delighted me, Abrams actually used the argument that the U of M's own student government has already voted overwhelmingly in favor of the proposal. Therefore a student referendum is unecessary. So wait a minute Mr. Abrams ... you mean since the U's own representative government voted in favor of the plan, a referendum is not needed? You mean we should trust the student government to make an informed decision on behalf of the entire student body? What a great idea!

The hypocrisy is just stunning. I really just can't believe it. Does Abrams even hear what he is saying?

• Ray Vandeveer is no longer a friend of the Greet Machine. Besides coming out with a pretty stupid amendment of his own, he voted against the Gophers stadium bill. This probably means he is anti-Twins stadium. Unfortunately for all of us, this brings the House Taxes Committee vote to 14 no and 15 yes. That committee is just way too tight to call right now. Does anyone have any other insight into the yes and no votes of this committee?

• Finally, I must say that after yesterday's bi-partisan and overwhelmingly in favor vote for the Gophers stadium I am feeling a little optimistic today. 103-30 in favor of a stadium bill is reason to celebrate and it may mean some hearts have softened for the Twins too. Can you imagine if we took care of all three stadiums THIS YEAR? What a savings of time and money that would be. Believe you me, I will be writing some legislators today begging them not to let this opportunity slip away. Let us inundate the legislature with praise for all these developments and let them know we strongly approve!

That's it for now. More later ...

Posted by snackeru at 8:45 AM | Comments (6)

April 6, 2006

You are invited!

PUBLIC RALLY FOR NEW TWINS BALLPARK

MONDAY, APRIL 10th 4:30-6:30 PM

Dear Baseball Fans,

It’s time to step up to the plate and be a part of Minnesota baseball history. You are invited to attend a public rally at the site of the proposed new ballpark to show your support for a new outdoor ballpark for the Minnesota Twins in downtown Minneapolis.

Join local dignitaries and celebrities for an afternoon celebrating the sport of baseball and showing support for a new ballpark. This grassroots level event will celebrate baseball at its purest level, Little League.

It’s the bottom of the ninth and the public push is on to rally for support of a new ballpark just west of Target Center in Minneapolis’ Warehouse District. A Little League diamond has been set up and Little League players will get the chance to be among the first to take a swing from home plate on the proposed site of the new ballpark.

No R.S.V.P. is required. Just show up, have fun, celebrate America’s pastime, and show your support for baseball and a new outdoor ballpark for the Twins.

WHAT: Rally to Build a New Downtown Ballpark
WHEN: 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 10, 2006
WHERE: Proposed site of new ballpark, just northwest of Target Center in downtown Minneapolis at the corner of 3rd Avenue North and 5th Street. Parking at the site is free for this event.
WHY: To show the residents of Minnesota that baseball fans are united and ready to support a downtown ballpark.


Jim in St. Paul, haven't we always wondered about this? What will be the turnout? What are the organizers expecting? This will be too interesting to miss! So, even though I sounded wishy washy yesterday, you better believe I am going to be at this event. Let me know if you'll be there too!


A couple of good articles in the TC dailies today concerning stadium politics, the most interesting of which can be found in the Star Tribune: 3 stadium plans are in play at Capitol. Of course, I soak all of this stuff up like a sponge, but the most interesting piece of this article was this:

Sen. Don Betzold, DFL-Fridley, chief Senate sponsor of the Vikings stadium bill, meanwhile said that a move to combine the three stadium proposals into one legislative bill may occur and that keeping the proposals on separate tracks would be "problematic."

I would really like to know the thinking behind this because I don't think there would be anything more problematic than combining all three bills into one. There is no surer way to kill all of the proposals than combining them, in my opinion. Somebody please tell me if I'm wrong. All the proposals should be judged on their own merits, because truthfully they are all quite different, especially the Gophers bill. Get the Gophers out of the way so we can prove to ourselves that the sky doesn't fall when the legislature approves a stadium bill!

Finally, my new favorite senator (besides Steve Kelly) had this to say in the paper:

"We've had three stadium issues in front of us for a number of years. Once again, I think it's time to get these things done. The longer we wait, the more they cost," said Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisolm.

Amen. Let's save ourselves a lot of money in the long run and get these things done NOW. Is there enough political willpower? We shall see on April 19th.

As you probably know, I have heard the House Taxes committee will hear the Twins bill on April 19th. If you have some time today, please drop them all an email. If the bill can get through this committee, well ... I don't want to get ahead of myself.

Posted by snackeru at 12:31 PM | Comments (2)

April 5, 2006

Quick Update: Ballpark Rally

• Sorry for my silence everyone! Sometimes work gets in the way of what is truly important: getting the Twins a new ballpark (ha!). Anywho, I just wanted to pass on that New Ballpark Inc, the people behind the website www.twinsballpark.org, are planning a rally for the new ballpark on the Rapid Park site this Monday (4/10) from 4:30 - 7:00 PM. Apparently, some important people will be there, like pro-stadium legislators and "politicos" as well as possibly representatives from the Twins.

Will I be there? I would definitely like to be. In fact, you can pencil me in, but I need to check with my significant other first, of course.

• Secondly, and this will be quick, I love it that the Gophers stadium is moving quickly through committees. Freealonzo even hints that the House floor may still be able to vote for it today! Amazing. Anyway, in closing, I just wanted to say pass the Gophers stadium bill fast so we can move on to the Twins. Here's hoping that passing one stadium bill will give our legislators the impetus they need to pass the next one (unlikely, I know).

UPDATE: Well, I just heard that Krinkie has pushed the Twins ballpark hearing back until April 19. Apparently, during committee work today he also said, "That will give you all time to work on your amendments." Gee thanks! What a guy. Anyway, hopefully my vote count for the Taxes Committee holds up.

Posted by snackeru at 2:52 PM | Comments (2)

April 4, 2006

Paul Giel, you should be ashamed of yourself...

memorial-sm.jpg
Click for larger

Hindsight is 20/20, but this place should have never been torn down. Renovated? Yes. Revered? Most definitely, but not torn down. Dumbest decision the U has ever made.

Posted by snackeru at 3:41 PM | Comments (4)

Let the games begin

• Let's get the obvious stuff out of the way: I am very excited for the first Twins game of the season today. Santana vs. Halladay should be a good one. And I am also excited to see 1) Kubel take over right field, 2) Liriano get the Rookie of the Year award, and 3) Morneau belt over 30 homers. I think all of this is a given. So, let the games begin!

• But you don't come to this blog to hear all of that, do you? You come because, like me, you like to torture yourself with news about stadium politics. Well, as has already been reported, the Twins actually won their first game of the season yesterday when their 10th stadium bill effort passed through the Senate State and Local Government Operations Committee. And not only did the bill pass, but it passed quite easily.

For those of you that want to know, the Senate State and Local Government Operations Committee has 14 members. 11 of those members voice voted "Yes" for the bill.

Linda Higgins - Yes
Charles W. Wiger - Yes
Debbie J. Johnson - Yes
Dick Day - Yes
D. Scott Dibble - No
Michelle L. Fischbach - No
Gary W. Kubly - Yes
Sharon Marko - Yes
Claire A. Robling - No
David H. Senjem - Yes
Yvonne Prettner Solon - Yes
David J. Tomassoni - Yes
Jim Vickerman - Yes
Betsy L. Wergin - Yes

Sen. Fishbach made an interesting speech at the end saying that she only voted "No" because there was no referendum attached to the bill and that she expects the Senate Taxes Committee to attach one in the next couple of weeks. She said then she would vote "Yes." Gutsy position, Senator.

All of this talk of votes in the Senate has whetted my appetite to figure out where all the Senators stand on my favorite topic. Yes, I am putting together a Senate version of the Voters' Guide. I am about a fourth of the way through and I should be done by the end of the week. I must say though that putting the Senate version is proving to be more difficult than the House version. Our senators have been a little quiet about this issue.

And speaking of Taxes Committees, I read in the AP version of yesterday's committee hearing that the House Taxes Committee will hear the bill this Monday. Can anyone confirm this? I don't see it on the schedule yet, and quite frankly I would be surprised if Krinkie has agreed to hear the bill so soon. Stranger things have happened I suppose.

In conclusion, I've got three thoughts. The first is that yesterday's committee hearing has now prompted the Twins and Hennepin County to begin negotiating a new agreement. Opat hinted yesterday that the extra $30 million would be split between the county and the team and that the agreement will look almost the same. We'll see how that shakes out. Secondly, it is very interesting to me how it looks like both the House and the Senate are building off of the work that was done last year concerning this bill, especially the House. Thankfully, it looks like this bill will not need to go through the House Government Operations Committee or the House Local Government Committe since last year's bill already passed these committees. Methinks House leadership (Sviggum) is working in the background to move this bill along in a timely fashion. Finally, now we will see the real fun begin when the bill is heard in both the House and the Senate Tax Committees. Oh boy, this will be interesting. Truth be told, I don't think the bill will get out of either of these committees without referendum amendments attached. And this might not be a bad thing. It looks like there are enough votes on the whole in both bodies to strip these amendments off if the bill gets to the floor of the House and Senate. At this point, it may be more important to get these bills to the floor than to fight off referendum amendments. We shall see.

Talk to you soon.

Posted by snackeru at 8:34 AM | Comments (10)

April 3, 2006

Watching the Senate committee hearing ...

Oh yes, I am in heaven. Watching legislative committee hearings is like heroin, and I am a junkie. If you would like to be similarily entertained, point your browser to this link:

Senate State and Local Government Operations Committee (RealMedia)

So far, the Senate bill SF2297 has been received very favorably. In fact, the committee chairwoman, Linda Higgins, has already made an off-handed comment that she hopes the Twins and Hennepin County will put together a new agreement after this hearing is over. Mike Opat commented that if the committee recommended that as the next course of action that they would do that. Yes, the ball is rolling.

The building unions are testifying now. The AFL-CIO is very much in favor of the bill, as is expected.

More as the hearings go on (or if anyone says anything interesting).

UPDATE: Dick Day has just said Minnesotans are asking him to vote in favor of this bill, and he is going to do that when he gets a chance.

UPDATE II: Chairwoman Higgins just proposed an amendment to name the ballpark "Kirby Puckett Park." A good idea, don't get me wrong, but 1) the Twins are not going to like this one, and 2) I would rather the state got some naming rights money than making this mistake ... Yep, Bell is very diplomatically voicing his displeasure, beginning by saying, "I'm not going to oppose this amendment. I'm not as stupid as I look."

UPDATE III: Senator Tomassoni!! My new hero! Don't you agree spycake?

UPDATE IV: Senator Dibble just proposed an amendment to raise a half-cent sales tax metro wide. Oh please no ... Good, Kelly is against the idea. Boy, we sure don't need to muddle this up further.

Spycake, if you are still reading and watching, I have to go pick up my wife now. So, I'm going to be gone for about a half an hour (8:15 - 8:45). If anything of note happens while I am gone, please leave me a comment! Thanks!

UPDATE V: Well, the bill passed (as amended) but I missed the vote! Shoot. Oh well, onto the Senate Taxes committee...

Posted by snackeru at 6:33 PM | Comments (4)

When going to the game was an event

Take a look at this picture. This is a picture of fans at Memorial Stadium circa 1930s-1940s. This has probably been discussed before in other publications or blogs even, but I am always amazed at what an "event" a football game was back then. Almost everyone is dressed up in a suit and tie, almost all the men are wearing hats. How relatively quickly things change. We would never see this kind of dress at the Metrodome today, at least not where it is the norm.


Click image for larger

Posted by snackeru at 11:08 AM | Comments (3)

Greet Machine on Sports Huddle?

Hey, I just heard that the Greet Machine was mentioned on Sid Hartman's Sunday morning show, "The Sports Huddle" with Sid and Dave. Did anyone out there hear what was said? Can anyone give me any details? Being a good, God-fearing Christian I seem to have missed it. Thanks if you have any info!

Posted by snackeru at 9:05 AM | Comments (3)

Medieval book curse

I'm reading Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, a wonderful book about the power and majesty of the written word, especially in book form. One of the chapters begins with this actual curse for people who would steal books from a monastery in Spain:

For him that stealeth, or borroweth and returneth not, this book from its owner, let it change into a serpent in his hand and rend him. Let him be struck with palsy, and all his members blasted. Let him languish in pain crying out for mercy, & let there be no surcease to his agony till he sing in dissolution. Let bookworms gnaw his entrails ... when at last he goeth to his final punishment, let the flames of Hell consume him forever.
from the monastery of San Pedro, Barcelona, Spain

Now that curse means business! More when I've got time ...

Posted by snackeru at 8:34 AM | Comments (2)

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