The Star Tribune scarifies on Vikings stadium financing

The Star Tribune editorial page doesn’t always speak plainly when it comes to the Vikings stadium. Consider the repeated and anodyne disclaimer about Strib’s for-sale land near the Metrodome: “The value of the property is likely to be affected by the stadium decision.”

Why not just, “If they build the new stadium here, we could sell our land for millions more than we’d get right now?”

A less obvious bit of obfuscation was in evidence Tuesday, as editorialists again touted the Dome site. Referring to Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak’s plan to divert some Convention Center sales taxes to a stadium subsidy, writers aimed a Sid-like shot at City Hall’s 3rd floor:

“Those City Council members who were quick to dismiss Rybak’s financing model need to realize that the Convention Center tax is authorized by the Legislature, and there’s no guarantee the state would extend it after Convention Center bonds are paid off in 2020.”

You’d be forgiven for assuming the tax — which produces tens of millions annually — needs extending. It doesn’t. There’s literally no expiration date. In fact, in 2009, the legislature and governor expanded the sales tax’s uses beyond Convention Center mortgage and maintenance for “capital projects [that] further residential, cultural, commercial, and economic development in both downtown Minneapolis and the Minneapolis neighborhoods.”

A House Research report says the tax doesn’t expire. Minneapolis City Council Member Elizabeth Glidden, who chairs the Intergovernmental Affairs Committee, believes that’s the case, as does Gene Ranieri, the city’s Intergovernmental Relations Director. Deputy City Attorney Peter Ginder could not say conclusively, but added that no one at City Hall had officially asked.

It’s true that the state created the tax, and could kill it — perhaps in a Strib-like fit of pique should the City Council not fork over $200 million to cut the state’s Vikings subsidy. Such Capitol fits have been known to happen.

But killing something takes a lot more energy than letting something die. Had the editorial spelled out the protection racket — “The state might kill the tax if the city doesn’t pony up for the Vikings” — the prospect would’ve seemed less likely, and less acceptable.

“Fear, uncertainty and doubt” (FUD) is a time-worn propaganda tactic to keep people from thinking clearly. At best, the Strib is being unclear here … though this isn’t exactly the first time. Stadium financing is only getting more complicated, and the public deserves precision. Anything else is all FUD up.

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