July 20, 2007
I have enjoyed this more than I can put into words. I'm going to miss it when it is over.
See you all in a couple of weeks!
July 18, 2007
The return of random thoughts! Its been a while. Can you handle the excitement? I seriously doubt it ...
I will not talk about Gopher football for quite a while.
In other Gophers news, one of my new favorite blogs is Paging Jim Shikenjanski a Gopher's sports blog that does a fantastic job discussing everything maroon and gold. Today, the author of this fine piece of writing has a great rundown of potential recruits for Gopher basketball. Let's hope Tubby can land some of these players. Anyway, nice work PJS! I encourage all of you to check it out.
Yesterday, Freealonzo tried to tempt me in an email by sharing how to download the full-text of the new Harry Potter book online! Shame on you Freealonzo! I will patiently wait for the book to come out like everyone else should. In fact, I am 884 out of 2465 on the Hennepin County Library waiting list to check out Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Knowing Hennepin County Library, I should get the book within the first couple of days. I believe they buy at least 700 copies of the book.
Having said that, I will be at the Many Point Scout Camp all next week. Here is hoping I get the new Harry Potter by Saturday afternoon. Have any of you ever been to Many Point? What a phenomenal camp. It should be a blast.
My two new favorite albums are Rainy Day Music and Smile by the Minneapolis band The Jayhawks. Holy crapola I am enjoying listening to these albums. Just all around good music. I have found in my older age that I no longer need the angry, us-against-them type music from bands like Smashing Pumpkins or Nirvana or Pearl Jam. I prefer thoughtful music ... perhaps music that includes some acoustic guitar, a harmonica, or even a banjo. I have Freealonzo to thank for these suggestions, especially Rainy Day Music, although I am still miffed at him for trying to tempt me off the straight and narrow path of proper and legal media consumption.
Now, just don't ask me where I got these two albums. I hear Soul Seek is a pretty nifty option though.
So, I've been reading an interesting book called Off the Map by Fergus Fleming. It covers worldwide exploration throughout history in concise, easy to read chapters that include the stories of Magellan, Columbus, Lewis and Clark, W.E. Parry, David Livingstone, etc. I have been especially intrigued by the story of James Cook, the British explorer most credit with "discovering" Hawaii. This is a most fascinating story. Apparently, the Hawaiians treated Cook like a god on his first visit to the main island of Hawaii. The Hawaiians lavished gifts on Cook and his crew and were "astonishingly friendly." Cook accepted everything, sailed away, got four days away and then a freak storm destroyed his foremast. Cook sailed back to a much cooler reception. Check this out:
Cook had been aware that the Hawaiians considered him some kind of god, but paid little attention to it. Unfortunately, he did not appreciate the ramifications of his visit. In Hawaiian mythology, the island's prosperity depended upon the regular arrival and departure of a white-skinned god Lono, or Orono, who presided over the rainy season. His coming was celebrated by a four-month festival, Makihiki, during which his image was carried clockwise around the island, its progress punctuated by ceremonies and sacrifices. When the rains ended Lono was ritually killed in battle with Ku, the god of the dry season, and left for his home over the waves to reappear the following year. The authority of Hawaii's rulers and priests rested on this routine, and the placatory rituals had been conducted for centuries without major incident. Lono came and went; and this was how it was.
Cook's arrival in November had coincided with the festival of Makihiki. As he was white (a pale skin was associated throughout Polynesia with divinity), and as he had, by coincidence, sailed clockwise round the island, the islanders assumed this year Lono had decided to join the celebrations in person rather than effigy.
Anyway, Cook comes back after participating in their festival and the natives treat him much, much differently. Needless to say, Cook ends up being killed in a pretty gruesome fight. He was probably eaten too.
Pretty nifty stuff, heh? This book is full of stories like this. Fascinating.
That's about it from me. Talk to you soon!
July 16, 2007
I don't know why, but this gives me quite the chuckle. It appears this is happening all over the place. If I ever saw a sign like this, I would probably be compelled to get out of the car and dance. Simple pleasures, people. Simple pleasures.
Even Vanilla Ice is getting in on the act.
Back to work.
July 12, 2007
An opportunity wasted
So, here it is. The new logo for TCF Bank Stadium. Before I get into it, let me just say I have nothing against TCF Bank. I'm sure they are nice people.
However, the U wasted a great opportunity here to get corporate sponsorship and satisfy those who want the stadium name to fit better with the history of the institution. I've said it before, and I'll probably say it again (because I thought the idea was great) but the stadium should have been named:
Think about it. There is already a Pillsbury Hall on campus. There is a statue of John S. Pillsbury, former governor of Minnesota and great University supporter, across from Burton Hall. The Pillsbury Company helped build Minneapolis and Minnesota and are now a part of their once arch-rival General Mills.
This is what the logo should have been (or something a little better, but you get the idea):
Of course, this assumes that General Mills would want to buy the naming rights. But did the University even try to persuade them? I hope so, but I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't. And that is an opportunity lost in my opinion.
July 11, 2007
Setting the record straight
Well, now you've gone and done it. You've made the Savior of Baseball in Minnesota upset. Actually, not exactly upset, but stunned, I suppose, by the misinformation being written on these pages. So he has decided to write a little something something to try to set the record straight. So, enjoy!
[Seriously, this is an email message I received from Mike Opat that addresses some of the questions and misconceptions written on this site. It also includes some information on the agreement between the Twins and the County regarding the Twins paying extra in case of a larger than expected condemnation reward. Thanks for taking the time to put this together Mike!]
Let me try to correct a few of the biggest myths, and you can post this whole email if you want, and hopefully we can calm down the rhetoric a little bit, step back and take a look at what's really going on here. Before I get into that though, I hope you've seen a copy of the recently disclosed secret option agreement between Hines and Land Partners.[I have]
The County has been trying to get its hands on this agreement for a long time, and we've always been turned down. Now we see why. It shows that in June 2006 -- less than a month after the ballpark legislation was passed -- LPII and Hines agreed on $25,111,665 as the sale price for all of the LPII parcels, about 10.5 acres in total. The County is only looking for about 70 percent of that land; after the ballpark is built, LPII will still own a big chunk north of 5th Street. When you use the price in the Hines/LPII agreement, 70 percent of all LPII is worth $17.6 million. That's a pretty far cry from the $65 million -- that's right, $65 million -- they've demanded in court.
Now, fast-forward a bit: In March of this year, Hines notified LPII that they will exercise the option and buy all of the LPII parcels. $25.1 million, then, is a sale price for all 10.5 acres. It's not a made-up, imaginary or theoretical figure. It's what LPII and Hines are using as the base price (there will be a small escalator to cover inflation costs) when Hines closes on the sale.
Somehow, Hines' own number on the value of the land we need for the project jumped from $17.6 million to $65 million between March and May. And that's why I've said that the County will not be strong-armed. We will not agree to purchase land at a preposterous price, not just because our appraisers say that the land is worth much less than $65 million, but because Hines and LPII agreed in their option agreement that the land is worth a tiny fraction of that amount.
Let's move on to some myths that have surfaced on the Greet Machine lately:
-- Why not start with this one: "The only party that really benefits during condemnation are the lawyers." To be honest, I sometimes feel this way myself. I went to the opening arguments at the condemnation hearing and saw a courtroom packed with lawyers. It is too bad. I can only justify this kind of expense by saying two things: Good legal advice is expensive. And I would rather have the public represented by the best legal team available than go with a subpar legal team and see a lousy performance in court. Let me also say that I have never heard anyone suggest, as the recent Star Tribune article does, that our legal expenses will approach $8 million. That is a huge figure and it has no basis in fact. The County's current contract with Leonard, Street & Deinard is for $950,000. I understand that we may have to increase that amount as the case proceeds, but it should give you a sense of scale. That contract, by the way, was unanimously approved by the County Board. Even my colleagues who opposed the ballpark project voted to protect the public interest in court.
[I asked for further clarification on this point and received this information: "The attorneys fees come out of the infrastructure or ballpark fund (not general county revenue funded by property taxes). PLEASE keep in mind that the $8 million figure cited by the Strib is completely groundless. I've never seen an estimate that high. Ever. It came from the landowners, but it's based on nothing.
To give you an idea of where we are right now: our contract with Leonard Street & Deinard for legal fees, which started last August, is capped at $950,000. That contract includes not only condemnation work but also legal work drafting and vetting the development agreement with the Twins, the grant agreement with the Ballpark Authority, and any number of other legal documents." -- Back to Opat's email.]
On to some bigger myths:
-- "Land Partners II and Hines were neutral or negative toward building the ballpark." I don't know how anyone could say this with a straight face, but we've seen it time and again. You've seen the lobbyist disclosure reports. LPII spent tens of thousands of dollars and countless hours of time at the Capitol to get the legislation passed. The irony is, we appreciated their help in passing the bill! LPII was our partner at the Capitol. When the bill finally passed, after countless failures in years past and hours and hours of work with legislators to win their support, Bruce Lambrecht told my colleague, Commissioner Stenglein, that LPII would be fair in selling the land to the County. If only it were so.
-- "The County has hurt LPII/Hines by 'taking them to court.'" This is great spin from the LPII/Hines "media consultant." Condemnation sounds ugly, and we see that it certainly is expensive. But in the end, it's also supposed to be a fair way of determining just compensation for land. And it's the way LPII/Hines said they wanted to resolve the land issue. Going back to Jan. 1 of this year, the Strib reported: "' I'm certainly not optimistic a deal's going to be done' unless the condemnation moves forward, Pogin said." It is unfortunate that the County could not find a reasonable land seller and buy the land out of court and avoid the expense. But we have to deal with the landowners we have, not the landowners we wish we had, to borrow a phrase.
-- "The County never tried to negotiate to buy the land." Nothing could be further from the truth. I met with Bob Pfefferle and Bill Chopp from the Minneapolis Hines office on June 5, 2006 -- just days after the Governor signed the ballpark legislation -- to talk about acquiring the ballpark site. County staff and I continued to meet with LPII, Hines and their many lawyers throughout the summer and fall of 2006 and early 2007. Our inability to reach a fair agreement for the ballpark land was not due to our lack of trying. It was due to only one party truly being interested in a negotiated sale, and I say that because even after we made multiple offers to LPII and Hines for the land, we never received a counter offer. We weren't told what they viewed the land value to be. We saw why in court this week: they hired their Chicago-based appraiser in March 2007, well after the County had launched negotiations.
When our Minneapolis-based appraisers come in between $13.8 million and $17.2 million, when the land is being assessed (for tax purposes) between $8 million and $9 million, and when we later find out that LPII agreed to take $25.1 million for the entire parcel, or about $17.6 million for the piece we need for the ballpark, I think I know in the end why the County's attempts to strike a deal were fruitless. This is a squeeze play by Hines, pure and simple, on the public.
-- "Mike Opat 'begged' the Twins for additional help to buy the land, and they agreed to cover anything above $13 million." Here's what really happened. Earlier this year, when it became clear that we were not going to be able to strike a deal to buy the land, the County Board voted to pursue condemnation. It is unfortunate that we arrived at such a place, knowing that attorneys fees are expensive and the deal would not be done for some time. Condemnation was a hard sell for me. I had worked hard to buy the site through negotiating, and I didn't want to expose the public to the risk that condemnation could return a wild judgment -- as has happened in the past. That does not mean I lost confidence in our appraisals. I simply wanted to make sure that we could build a great ballpark with great infrastructure -- within the $90 million cap -- even with the huge variable that condemnation brings. I approached the Twins and they agreed to fund an additional amount to the infrastructure budget.
It is not an unlimited amount. The team will not cover "any" difference between our appraisals and the condemnation judgment. The only reason we have not specified what the Twins' contribution will be is because we do not want to divulge that kind of budget information to the other side while we are in court with them. [That sounds like a very good reason not to make this amount known.]
-- "The Vikings' recent land deal shows how badly the County miscalculated." This is an easy one. The Wilf group, when it reportedly closed on land owned by the Star Tribune, was buying four blocks of prime real estate; within the Central Business District; adjacent to an operating light-rail line; including income-generating buildings. The Rapid Park site has none of those features. I suppose it does have a garbage burner next door, which the Wilf site does not have. (The HERC, by the way, will not interfere at all with the ballpark when it's built.) The Rapid Park site the County is seeking is also much smaller than the Wilf land. Wilf was also buying political good will; purchasing property near the site appears to invest him in building a football complex.
-- "The public will somehow end up paying more for the project." Another easy one. We can't, and we don't need to. The ballpark law specifies our budgets: $260 million on the ballpark and $90 million on related infrastructure. There is no need, no justification, and no appetite to seek authority to spend more. We don't need to rehash the whole debate about whether or not the County should be involved in building the ballpark. I believe that Major League Baseball in Minneapolis, in Hennepin County, is important. I believe the deal struck with the Twins -- that they pay at least $130 million for construction, fund all cost overruns, pay annual rent and capital expenditure payments, and most recently, provide an additional infrastructure amount -- is a good deal for the public. I anticipate that the County will spend every penny of its ballpark and infrastructure budgets to create the best facility possible. That can and will be done without more public money.
This is a lengthy email, Shane, but the project is complicated. We knew it would be. Public/private partnerships to build stadiums are some of the most complicated deals local governments can do. This site makes it even more complicated by squeezing a bike trail, proposed LRT and commuter rail, parking ramps and other infrastructure nearby.
But none of those factors -- nor the current drama in the media, in court or on your blog -- has persuaded me that this project will be anything short of a world-class, beautiful facility that will serve the public for generations. It will be a great ballpark. I hope your readers agree.
July 10, 2007
I know where I'll be July 18
Ah yeah, my homies! Thud's CD release party at First Avenue! And check it out, it will "feature a performance" by Thud himself!
I don't want to be too dismissive of Thud's music or his talent, though. Not being a fan of "the rap" or "the hip-hop" young folks are listening to today, I can't say for sure if Thud's music is fresh or not. He does have a record deal with Capitol, too, which is respectable.
I wish him all the best. In fact, I hope he is so successful he never dons a Timberwolves jersey again. Its a win-win for everyone!
Trying to make sense of it all
I think it is important to begin with a reiteration of why we should care about all of this. On June 27th, I laid it out as a "gravel vs. pavement" argument. In other words, the more Hines/LPII gets for the land, the less we'll have in terms of infrastructure around the ballpark. Rick at Twinsballpark2010.com suggests that the plaza or the pedestrian bridge over 394 (or both) could be in jeopardy if Hines/LPII gets what they are demanding (which gets more outrageous every time I think of it).
I gotta tell you, I want this ballpark to be spectacular all the way around. I don't like it at all that the plaza or the pedestrian bridge are in danger of being scaled back or worse not built at all. This may seem like "sky is falling" type rhetoric, but a demand of $65.5 million for land that LPII agreed to sell to Hines for about $17.5 million would barely leave enough for sidewalks.
That's right: $17.5 million. In my hands I am holding the purchase agreement for the ballpark land, and the surrounding land, between Hines and Land Partners II. Signed March 14, it explains in excruciating detail the agreement between the Texans and the little old ladies. I won't pretend to have read and/or understood it all (it is around 80 pages of legalese). Thankfully, though, there are a couple of illuminating passages early on in the document. For example, on page 21 it lists the "Base Option Price" for each of the sections of land the document deals with:
(i) as to the Duddy Property, $12,448,000;
(ii) as to the LPII Property, $25,111,665; and
(iii) as to the Minikahda Property, $5,787,000
Obviously, most of us with any knowledge of this fiasco key in on the LPII land value. Keep in mind the county wants to buy about 70% of the LPII land, on which they will build the ballpark. LPII, and now Hines, will keep the other 30% of the LPII land north of 5th. In other words, Hines and LPII now want $65.5 million for land that in March they agreed was worth around $17.5 million, according to their own documentation.
Page 19 also includes this little tidbit that provides some further clarification on the land values:
Upon Buyer's timely and proper exercise of an Option, this Agreement shall become a binding agreement between Buyer and the Applicable Seller for the purchase and sale of the Applicable Property described in the Exercise Notice (the "Exercised Property") on the terms and conditions set forth herein.
What this suggests is that the prices agreed to in the document are real and not imaginary. They suggest LPII was willing to sell the land to Hines for the prices agreed upon in the document. And even taking into account all the sections of land represented by the three companies: Duddy, LPII, and Minikahda ... all together it equals about $43.4 million Hines is willing to pay for the land in this document. Three sections of land for $43.4 million, but for the county the price is $65.5 million for 70% of only the LPII land. Huh?
But wait! What about all that percentage mumbo jumbo? You know, the part where Hines will get a percentage of the sale price to the county over $25 million and LPII will get a back rub (or something like that). Actually, we have some clarification on that front also. The Star Tribune printed a correction in the paper last week that stated:
A story on Page B3 Wednesday incorrectly described a condemnation settlement related to land for the Twins' new ballpark. Hines Interests will pay $25 million to Land Partners II, plus 77.5 percent of everything above $25 million paid by Hennepin County in a condemnation settlement. Hines would keep the remaining 22.5 percent, Hines Vice President John McDermott said Wednesday. Legislators approved the bill May 21, 2006, and Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed it on May 26, 2006.
You catch that? Hines will only get 22.5% of anything over $25 million. Is it any wonder that they are asking for so much in the condemnation proceedings? And LPII will get 77.5% of anything over $25 million. Do we even have to speculate what their motivation is?
So, taking this into account I don't think there is any question that LPII and Hines expects the land to be worth more than $17.5 million. This may be the suggested minimum sale price as described in their documentation above (remember, the county only wants 70% of the land), but both Hines and LPII expected to get a percentage of the sale price over $25 million to help sweeten the deal for both sides.
So, lets summarize: LPII agreed to sell the land to Hines for $25 million in March, AND LPII and Hines only entered the above agreement with the hope that they would both get percentages of anything over $25 million, AND the county only wants to buy 70% of the land, AND 70% of $25 million is $17.5 million ... deep breath ... the question now is: given all this information, what should the land be worth over $17.5 million?
$65.5 million? I don't think so. Somewhere between $20 - $25 million? That is probably more like it. Unfortunately this doesn't give Hines a whole lot of profit (if any), but keep in mind they also plan on developing the rest of the land they own around the ballpark.
There is a lot more to say about this but for now I've got to go to bed. In conclusion, Hines and LPII are desperate to get the price for the ballpark land above $25 million in order to make some more money. However, according to their own documentation, values determined by county appraisers, and tax assessments for the land, there is no way that land is worth more than $25 million. No way.
But what do I know? I'm just a blogger excited about outdoor baseball in 2010. Have at it.
July 9, 2007
Blues name generator
Man I love goofy stuff generators! How bout this one: The Blues Name Generator.
If I was to be a blues singer, according to this site my blues name would be:
`Wailin'´ Junior Coolidge
The Twins got theirs
The Gophers too
But now here come the Vikings
And that makes me blue
I gots the stadium blues ... baby!
Yeah ... I gots the stadium blues!
Too many billionaires want my money
When I gots to make my cornbread
Any other blues singers out there? Because when Wailin' Junior Coolidge starts singing, the blues start a flowin' ...
July 7, 2007
My Simpsons character
Here is what I would look like if I was on the Simpsons (kind of). Make your own at the Simpson's website:
July 2, 2007
So, I put a cat door in my basement laundry room door this last Saturday. This will allow our cats easy access to the litter box, and make it so we won't have to smell it from the family room. Now, you've all probably heard the saying, "Measure twice, cut once," but that is not the school of thought that I work from. Oh no. I use the "eyeball it" methodology. I find that just eyeballing things allows me to get things done faster, and it adds a bit of excitement to the proceedings. Needless to say, my efforts with the cat door this weekend were no exception.
I began by removing the door from its hinges and bringing it outside to work my magic. I laid the door on my picnic table and penciled in the hole that I would jigsaw out. My wife came out and said, "You better measure that."
"Pffft!" I answered confidently. "How hard is it to cut a hole in a door? Be gone woman and let me work!"
Anyway, I cut a hole in the door and installed the cat door. All in all it took me about 15 minutes. I thought to myself, "This couldn't have gone any better! I'm like the Bob Vila of cat doors!" Then I took the door downstairs to put it back into place. Well at least I tried to.
This is a picture of the second cat door I installed. Pretty nice huh?
Thats right ... the second cat door I installed. Here is what my laundry room door looks like now:
If you still need me to spell it out for you, I cut the original cat door hole at the top of the door! What the heck is my problem? Why didn't I just take the time to make sure I was cutting at the right end? Believe me, this caused me a great deal of anger. Then acceptance. Then laughter. You don't need to tell me what an idiot I am. I know.
So, I hauled the door back outside, cut another hole, and installed the cat door at the right end. But now I have a hole at the top of the door too.
Anyway, it has occurred to me that I have a unique opportunity to do something special with the hole at the top of my door. Should I put in a little peep hole door? You know, put some hinges on another smaller door up there that would allow me to look into the laundry room without opening the main door? Or should I just cover the hole with a poster or something?
If any of you have any good ideas, let me know. Eventually I plan on getting a new door, but for now I have to do something. Like I said, it can be a pretty different kind of idea since I'm not sure I know anyone that has a big hole at the top of their laundry room door. So, if you think you've got a good idea lay it on me.
Also, if you've got any of your own home improvement projects and you need some advice, you know who to call. Especially if you need your projects to have a little more pizazz than usual. That's it for now. Have a good one!
By the way, if you write a negative comment about the stadium, I will delete your comment. Today, let's just be civil, shall we? We can hammer away at each other again later. Today, I'm hoping for some good suggestions on what to do with that hole!
July 1, 2007
You got it like that
For the love of all that is holy, stop playing this commercial! Who is the marketing genius that came up with this one? I sincerely hope Heineken sales have plummeted on the "strength" of this pathetic excuse for an advertisement. Yikes!