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Mayor Rybak remains confident, despite council trashing of stadium plan

Despite Thursday’s City Council trashing of his stadium proposal, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak remains confident that he eventually will find the seven votes he needs to get the plan approved.

But he concedes it won’t be easy.

“We didn’t develop it overnight, and we didn’t expect people to love it at first blush,” Rybak said in an interview Friday. He referred to Thursday’s council session as “the sausage-making part of politics that most people don’t see, but we put it proudly on display here at City Hall.”

The mayor predicts that when council members study the stadium plan and have an opportunity to ask questions about its overall impact, they will find that it contains a lot more than a plan for a football stadium.

“The more people dig into the details, the more they will be open to it,” Rybak said, adding, “It’s going to take a few days for it to sink in.”

His selling points go beyond a football stadium. The plan includes long-term funding for the Minneapolis Convention Center and renovation of Target Center. It also would result in removing property tax funds from Target Center, saving the city an estimated $4 million a year.

And then there’s the nearly $1 billion football stadium somewhere downtown that would continue to bolster the economy.

“People pay me to look big problems in the eye and come up with a solution,” said Rybak. He said he is willing to make changes in the proposal and points out that he has already backed off the idea of funding the package with a casino on Block E and has remained flexible on the three proposed Minneapolis locations.

But he has said he is against the idea of a referendum, saying that citizens will get their chance to vote when he stands for re-election.  Several council members, however, are pushing hard for a referendum before any stadium spending.

Rybak, meanwhile, says he is not dismayed by those who say there are seven “no” votes on the council.

“I see the potential for getting seven [yes] votes on a complicated question,” said Rybak, adding that anyone with a hard count of council votes ultimately could be surprised. “I’m only warming up,” he said.

Tough sell for Council Member Roy

One of the council members reluctant to move ahead without a referendum is Sandy Colvin Roy.

“Here’s the problem,” said Colvin Roy. “I don’t know what I will be asked to vote on.”

She believes the Metrodome site is the best for the new stadium, given its access by mass transit and the infrastructure already in place.  But she has said she cannot “countenance going around the referendum.”

In general, she is not a fan of referendums: “I don’t think a referendum is the best way to govern, but it is the law in Minneapolis, and I’m not going around it.”

Colvin Roy also has a problem with Minneapolis being the major source of funding for a regional asset. She would prefer the establishment of a regional sports facilities authority that would consolidate all of the sports venues and pay for them with money from across the region, rather than just one city or county.

“This is an important time for residents of at least the metro area to understand how much they have at stake,” said Colvin Roy.  She says Minneapolis is not getting rich by being home to the Dome, despite views to the contrary.

While a sports facility generates sales tax revenue, that money doesn’t stay with the city where it was spent. Sales tax revenue goes directly to the state. Minneapolis keeps proceeds from a package of downtown hospitality taxes, which currently support the Convention Center.

But Colvin Roy is not sure anyone is listening to her on wanting a regional approach.

“I don’t see a clear path, but I’m on the fringes,” she said, “but maybe it’s possible at some point that my vote will matter.”

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