GOP’s Amy Koch supports stadium tax referendum

MORNING EDITION

A serious question for GOP legislators has been how they’ll reconcile consenting to a tax for a Vikings stadium after the display they put on last spring. Now we know that Majority Leader Amy Koch at least wants Ramsey County to take its own vote. The AP says: “Koch said she considers the Vikings a key state asset and sees the benefits to Ramsey County of being home to a stadium — ‘but I just think a referendum is in order,’ she said. A referendum likely could not be held until November 2012 — long after the Vikings’ lease at the Metrodome expires. As the top-ranked Republican in a Senate controlled by that party, Koch’s pronouncement could hold considerable sway over a crop of conservative freshmen new to stadium politics at the Capitol. Stadium supporters have predicted that Ramsey County voters would kill the sales tax proposal and scrap the entire stadium project.”

It turns out the Mercedes SUV involved in the hit-and-run death of a man just off I-94 last week belongs to ex-Viking Joe Senser. Emily Gurnon’s PiPress story says: “An affidavit for a search warrant filed Wednesday in Hennepin County District Court said that an attorney called the Minnesota State Patrol the day after the accident to notify them that the Senser family was going to turn over the 2009 Mercedes-Benz SUV. A state trooper went to 416 John St. in Edina, where Senser lives with his wife and children. ‘(The trooper) noted that the vehicle had damage to the front passenger side, including the fender,’ the search warrant affidavit said. ‘What appeared to be a blood-like substance was also observed on the vehicle’s hood’. … Attorney Eric Nelson of Halberg Criminal Defense said Thursday that the Mercedes is registered to Senser. The Senser family attorney declined to say who was driving the car the night of the accident.”

Consider the source here, but the AP has a story from Mason City, Iowa saying: “A recently fired Mason City police officer is saying police may have been involved in the 1995 abduction and possible slaying of missing Mason City television anchor Jodi Huisentruit. The Globe Gazette reported that Maria Ohl made the allegations after a Civil Service Commission hearing Thursday. A hearing on her termination has been set for Sept. 13. Ohl said she received information that police may have been involved in the disappearance of Huisentruit and they may be covering up what happened to the Minnesota native by failing to act on the leads. Ohl was placed on paid administrative leave last year. She says she was told she was fired last month because of her handling of the Huisentruit information.”

Ewwww … Gurnon again at the PiPress has the very sick story of, “Gary Wills Brown, 58, [who] told a woman he’d be interested in having sex with a child, according to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday and made public today in Ramsey County District Court. The complaint, written by Special Agent Jan May of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, gives the following details: ‘The woman, referred to as an informant, reported to police that Brown had expressed his wishes to her. It was not clear from the document how Brown and the woman knew each other. Police set up a sting in which the informant called Brown and recorded the conversations. She told Brown she would find a family that could ‘supply’ a girl for sex in exchange for money. ‘Brown was asked to pick between a 5-year-old, (an) 8-year-old or (a) 12-year-old. Brown picked the 8-year-old girl,’ and agreed to pay $300, plus $100 if he were allowed to video-record the abuse. He was told to bring candy for the child.” … And it gets worse.

I believe blogger Karl Bremer at “Ripple in Stillwater”  deserves at least a mention in this story. Kevin Giles of the Strib reports:The city of Stillwater made an improper $80,000 donation to a nonprofit coalition formed this year to promote construction of a four-lane bridge across the St. Croix River, the state auditor’s office has determined. The donation of public money, which Mayor Ken Harycki and three other City Council members approved in a July vote, was made without a contract that would keep the public informed about how the money would be spent, attorney Nancy Bode wrote in a letter to city officials this week.”

Bremer has been on this one for weeks. His post on the auditor’s decision includes this: “The ruling was in response to a complaint filed by myself and other citizens with the OSA over improper use of taxpayer dollars to promote the proposed freeway bridge across the St. Croix River, aka the ‘Bachmann Boondoggle.’ The Office of State Auditor (OSA) chastised the City for its sloppy contracting procedures with the Coalition and stated that ‘If the City decides to contract with the Coalition for services directly related to one of the City’s authorized functions, the City should use proper contract management procedures to protect public funds,’ which it did not in this case. … When the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board last month dismissed my complaint regarding the registration of The Conach Group’s ‘legislative consultant’ as a lobbyist, [Stillwater Mayor Ken] Harycki sniffed that it was ‘much ado about nothing.’ Perhaps Harycki and his legal advisors will listen to the OSA instead.” Good God! What’s next? Bloggers making more cogent political analyses than mainstream journalists?

Fear not for the big red bull’seye. Thomas Lee says in the Strib: “The Minneapolis-based retailer said Thursday that sales at stores open for at least a year in August — the heart of the key back-to-school shopping season — rose 4.1 percent, matching Target’s performance in July. (In August 2010, Target same-store sales grew only 1.9 percent).”

Our Favorite Congresswoman — getting steadily more flattened in the polls by Rick Perry, even among ardent Tea Partiers — has her, or rather a completely separate and unrelated Super PAC has its, first anti-Perry ad up and ready for South Carolina. Jeremy Herb of the Strib writes: “One of the Super PACs supporting Rep. Michele Bachmann plans to air TV ads attacking her newest presidential rival, Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Keep Conservatives United, a Super PAC headed by North Carolina GOP activist Bob Harris, will begin airing TV ads in Columbia, S.C., next week, Harris told Hot Dish. The ad will run for five days, he said, though he would not disclose the size of the ad buy. The ad attacks Perry over increases in spending as Texas governor, citing a Fort Worth Star-Telegram story.  ‘He’s supposed to be the Tea Party guy?’ a narrator says. ‘There is an honest conservative, and she’s not Rick Perry.’ ” Or, put another way, “Rick Perry. Not nearly conservative enough.”

Are you kidding me? Another incident of a Wisconsin Supreme Court judge clocking a fellow high-bencher? Eric Kleefeld at Talking Points Memo writes: “Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, a conservative, is responding to criticism from the court’s liberals, regarding his allegation to investigators that liberal Justice Ann Walsh Bradley hit him during a court meeting on September 18, 2008 — a date when the court did not meet. Gableman’s answer is that he is correcting a lapse of memory: It did happen on September 18 — but in 2009. Gableman made the allegation during the investigation of a physical altercation in June, about which Bradley accused Justice David Prosser, the leader of the court’s conservatives, of grabbing her neck in a ‘chokehold.’ ”

Comments (26)

  1. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/02/2011 - 07:01 am.

    Amy is trying to take both sides of the issue. She is for a stadium but against those measures that would make a stadium happen.

    This particular version of the issue is simple. A referendum means no stadium. Politicians who advocate positions that have the effect of preventing things from happening, are opposed to those things. If Amy favors a referendum, she opposes the stadium. If that is her position, she should own up to it.

  2. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/02/2011 - 07:09 am.

    Just about my least favorite politician tactic is support contingent an impossible precondition. “I am in favor of x”, the politician will tell you, “if and only if the ambient temperature of hell is reduced to at most 31 degrees Fahrenheit, and that the necessary air conditioning system is paid for by the residents thereof.” The effect of this position is to allow the politician to take both sides of an issue. They will tell one set of potential voters, those who favor x, “sure I support your position, and voted for it on numerous occasions, especially in committee.” To those who oppose measure x, the same politician says, “I made sure that x wouldn’t happen unless all your impossible to satisfy concerns were met.”

    The goal and result of these kinds of tactics isn’t good policy, it’s the re-election of politicians. Unfortunately, politicians come and go, but policies are things we have to live with.

  3. Submitted by William Souder on 09/02/2011 - 08:29 am.

    I don’t know why anyone would oppose a new, publicly funded stadium for the Vikings. A new stadium would make the team more competitive and probably enable them to win a couple of Super Bowls. This is a proven effect. Remember how the Twins needed a new stadium to be more competitive? Well, I haven’t checked the standings lately but I’m pretty sure the Twins are headed to the World Series this year. With Mauer and Morneau tearing the cover off the ball at beautiful, new Target Field we’ve got a terrific team and a ballpark to match! That’s how it’s done, you can ask anybody. A new Vikings stadium should be a no brainer. This is so obvious I don’t think we have to worry about a referendum on it…I bet it would pass overwhelmingly.

  4. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/02/2011 - 08:52 am.

    Unlike their immediate predecessor, the Wilf’s have demonstrated a real commitment to putting a quality team on the field. There have been no Super Bowls, but asking them to guarantee that is one of those impossible preconditions I talked about earlier.

    I don’t know how to enforce it, but I do think that when we build stadiums, one of the promises we should get from the team owners is that they will make the effort needed to put good teams on the field. IMO, that’s something the Pohlads have done, and based on past performance at least, something the Wilf’s have done as well.

  5. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/02/2011 - 08:55 am.

    William,

    Super bowls and world series are not government functions. Nor are they public responsibilities. These are privately owned franchises playing games. These games are not public or government services and therefore not the taxpayers responsiblility.

    Professional sports subsidies may have made a certain amount of sense 30 years ago but the pro-sports business model has not become dependent on public subsidies. Those subsidies are now large enough to constitute a significant drain on increasingly scarce public resources. When public subsidies reach the scale of these new stadiums (billions of dollars) they transform marginal assets into liabilities. Sports subsidies on this scale distort the local economy, pervert the political process, and undermine basic principles of democracy.

    I did a pretty extensive analysis on my blog, you can check it out here if you’d like: http://pudstrand.fatcow.com/blog/?m=201104

  6. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 09/02/2011 - 09:08 am.

    Way to take responsibility, Sensor’s!!

    Maybe we can prosecute the SUV!

    How about a charge of conspiracy to conceal a crime?

  7. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/02/2011 - 09:14 am.

    Arggg! I meant to say the business model has “now” become dependent.

    Anyways, I really think this deal is finally in serious jeopardy of not getting done, the stars are kind of aligned against it like never before, which is a good thing. And I’ll say it again, when the lease runs out I say we demand another ten year lease in dome or ask Wilf where he plans to play games in 2012.

  8. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/02/2011 - 09:16 am.

    Super bowls and world series are not government functions.

    What’s a government function is what we hold elections to find out.

  9. Submitted by William Souder on 09/02/2011 - 09:34 am.

    But Mr. Udstrand if we don’t build the Vikings a stadium they’ll leave! There must be six or seven other cities that would happily build them a stadium, although I can’t name any of them. And when that happens, we’ll just be a cold Omaha, or close to it if Omaha had professional baseball, basketball, and hockey teams, plus a Big Ten football program. See what I’m getting at? What are we supposed to do? Watch football on TV?

    Plus…what is all this about “scarce” public resources? Minnesota is so flush that we can afford an extra legislative session every year! We’re rolling in it!

  10. Submitted by Dale Hoogeveen on 09/02/2011 - 10:18 am.

    The Sensors have every right to keep their mouths shut, guilty, innocent, or otherwise, just like any other citizens do.

    I find it very interesting that Koch is willing to let the affected folks have their referendum on the proposed Vikings stadium rather than just ramming through another burden on the Metro for the benefit of some of the ultra-wealthy. Liberal, conservative or moderate, most of the Metro folks I know are not in favor of special Metro-only levies to subsidize the millionaire pro players or team owners. It won’t pass in Ramsey and if Hennepin had been given the option the special pro sports sales taxes here wouldn’t have passed either.

    Many folks may not know that the Vikings got a real sweet deal on the MetroDome, including all the concessions for every function. If they can’t make it on their own now that the Twins and the U have their own facilities then IMO that is just too bad.

  11. Submitted by Madeline Anderson on 09/02/2011 - 10:19 am.

    The Strib’s Giles also missed the point of the $80K to fund the Coalition. It was to pay a lobbyist, Michael Wilhemni.

  12. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/02/2011 - 11:22 am.

    “The Sensors have every right to keep their mouths shut, guilty, innocent, or otherwise, just like any other citizens do.”

    Ultimately, citizens do not have the right to keep their mouths shut unless they claim the fifth amendment privilege against self incrimination.

    “I find it very interesting that Koch is willing to let the affected folks have their referendum on the proposed Vikings stadium rather than just ramming through another burden on the Metro for the benefit of some of the ultra-wealthy.”

    What politicians say, what they do, and what they allow to happen can be three very different things. Politicians want a Vikings Stadium, they want the credit for building a stadium, but they don’t want the responsibility for making people paying for the stadium. The result is legislative magic. Mysterious things happen in the dark of night for which no one is responsible. Things no one is in favor of, somehow manage to happen.

    For me, one of the most revealing things about the stadium is that it’s most public advocates are out state legislators, whose constituents will get the benefit of a stadium without paying for it. The legislators who are invisible on the issue are the metro legislators, whose constituents will get stuck with the bill. One would think that no stadium bill would get passed without the public support of the legislators most concerned. But one who would think that would be both naive and wrong.

  13. Submitted by Lauren Maker on 09/02/2011 - 11:31 am.

    William–I’m so with you, man! It appears some folks don’t recognize sarcasm when they read it anymore.

    As to our girl Michele’s apparent decline with the Tea Party folks–has anyone in the press considered it might be due to good old sexism? Now they’ve got some hot dude with good on paper credintials, it’s thanks sweetie, go bake some cookies.

    A voting but not a political junkie friend of mine pointed out, even if Michele Bachmann were to win the GOP nod, she’ll lose, as the GOP still has lots of voters who just couldn’t bring themselves to vote for a woman for president.

    Sad but true.

  14. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 09/02/2011 - 11:40 am.

    Amy Koch would seem to be letting Republican members of the legislature know that they need not feel disloyal to Father Norquist if the voters decide to raise their own taxes.

    Rick Perry may seem “not nearly conservative enough” to some, but his record as governor proves he should be quite conservative enough for anyone who seeks tea-partyness in a candidate.

  15. Submitted by Victor Johnson on 09/02/2011 - 11:52 am.

    I Do NOT support the use of any taxes to build a new stadium.
    REASONS:

    1. We have had MAJOR cuts to Education.
    Our kids have 40 students in a 5th grade classroom because of teacher cuts, but the Vikings get a new stadium?…NO WAY.

    2. How about the elimination of the “homestead” tax deduction for ALL Minnesota home owners? ALL of OUR property taxes for 2012 are going UP 4 %.

    3. LET THE VIKINGS MOVE TO ANOTHER STATE..
    .if they can find one that is not in financial trouble as MN is.

    4. ANY POLITICIAN supporting this stadium will NOT BE RE ELECTED.

  16. Submitted by scott cantor on 09/02/2011 - 11:56 am.

    It’s interesting that the proposed Vikings stadium site is well closer to Blaine and Coon Rapids than St Paul. Yet St. Paul residents will pay the lion’s share of the sales tax, while Blaine, Coon Rapids, and Spring Lake Park get a free gift. That’s awfully magnanimous of St. Paul residents, doubly so for offering to do so without even voting on it.

    Dear Ramsey County Commissioners: I don’t live in your county, but I really want–I mean, need–a new sail boat, a deck on the back of my house, and puppy. Can you please direct me to the proper form to fill out for St. Paul taxpayers to give me money for these necessities without their consent? Thx in advance. XXOO.

  17. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 09/02/2011 - 12:49 pm.

    Ah. A good dose of sarcasm made my Friday.
    By the way, Zygi Wilf’s net worth is more than enough to pay for the stadium. Of course, doing so would make him a mere multi-multi-millionaire. While that would be tragic, I still think it would be ok.

  18. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/02/2011 - 01:08 pm.

    The key to understanding the political process is know how and when decisions are made. In many cases the system consists of various choke points, where saying or not saying, doing or not doing the right thing, determines whether the process moves forward. The possible stadium referendum is one such choke point. It’s very clear that if there is a referendum, the stadium will not be built. So politicians, most of whom want a stadium, must adjust their positions around that political reality. Some will do this by saying, “I am against the stadium, but I believe the legislative process must be allowed to take it’s course.” Keeping the issue before the legislature, keeps it alive. You might even find that legislators who takes that position, will even vote against the stadium, knowing that outstate legislators, who constituents get the benefit of a stadium without having to pay for it, can provide enough votes to get it through.

    The critical question in politics always, is not “what’s your position?”, it’s “what will your position be when it matters?”

  19. Submitted by greg copeland on 09/02/2011 - 02:25 pm.

    Bi-partisan Opposition to Ramsey County’s Vikings Stadium should be celebrated!

    Senate Majority Leader Koch and House Speaker Zellers declartion that they will support Ramsey County citizens getting a vote on the proposed $675 Million Viking Stadium Sales Tax, is what we would expect from elected officials who understand Ramsey County’s one of a kind direct democracy Minnesota County Charter Government.

    Respecting self government is a Great American Tradition; no taxation without representation!

    When Minnesota’s two Republican Legislative Leaders get it. When the majority of the Ramsey County Legislative Delegation in both parties get it. When the DFL St. Paul City Council and Mayor outright oppose the Ramsey County Commissioners Vikings Stadium plan, along with many suburban City Councils and Mayors; what keeps this stadium tax plan alive?

    Ironically it’s the Elected DFL members of Ramsey County Commission, who don’t understand the People’s rights under the Ramsey County Charter. The County Commissioners made their No Referendum deal in May 2011 with the Vikings to levy the $675 Million in stadium taxes, and issue the bonds without any public hearing. All contrary to the spirit and specific provisions of the Ramsey County Charter.

    You have to wonder where the People’s newly Elected, DFL, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi was when the County Commission approved this 12 page deal with the Vikings which attempts to prohibit the very citizen referendum vote allowed by the County Charter.

    Perhaps Mr. Choi will soon explain how his office allowed this contract provision, on page 10, to make into the agreement.

  20. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/02/2011 - 02:26 pm.

    While a referendum is a non-starter, the possibility of a referendum can be used to the benefit of pro-stadium supporters. It provides a political lifeboat to people like Sen. Koch, who are totally opposed to a tax increase at the state level, but might be able to give support to a referendum proposal at the local level. Bear in mind, the stadium doesn’t need Sen. Koch’s support, it only needs for Sen. Koch to allow a stadium bill to be brought to the floor. Inserting a referendum provision can give her a rationale for doing that.

  21. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/02/2011 - 02:35 pm.

    //What’s a government function is what we hold elections to find out.

    Actually Hiram we have constitutions that tell us what government’s function is. Furthermore, please tell me which government workers past present or future run super bowl and world series games? Which department do they work for? Where are their offices?

    Yes the Vikings might leave. Frankly I think I can make a pretty compelling argument at this point that we’d better off without them, their subsidies, and the drain and distractions of their stadiums.

  22. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/02/2011 - 02:39 pm.

    What is this “sarcasm” you speak of?

  23. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/02/2011 - 04:40 pm.

    “Actually Hiram we have constitutions that tell us what government’s function is.”

    Can you direct me to any specific provision of the constitution that describes government functions in specific terms? I would be particularly interested in any discussion of stadium issues you might find in the constitution.

    “Furthermore, please tell me which government workers past present or future run super bowl and world series games?”

    Are you suggesting that the government can do things, just not for the first time? Government does plenty of constitutional things now that it didn’t do in 1787 or 1858. Constitutions are not policy documents.

    “What is this “sarcasm” you speak of?”

    Mr. Souder, I think, was being ironic, something easily misunderstood or missed on the web.

  24. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/03/2011 - 08:12 am.

    Hiram, I know you would like pro-sports to be a government responsibility, but your sophistry is getting really thin. The NFL is a privately owned-for profit corporation. It is not a government entity. If you want to make the argument that of all the businesses in country it’s the governments job to guarantee positive returns on NFL owner’s investments, let’s hear it.

    Now it’s true that government subsidizes private ventures, and we can discuss the issue of public amenities, but the size of these sports subsidies are completely disproportionate, nothing else even comes close. Sure, we bailed out the banks and the auto industry… those bailouts are debatable as well but tens of thousands of jobs and millions of homes were at stake. An NFL team employs what? 100 people?

  25. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/04/2011 - 05:43 am.

    “If you want to make the argument that of all the businesses in country it’s the governments job to guarantee positive returns on NFL owner’s investments, let’s hear it.”

    That’s not an argument I would make, or happen to agree with. Governments interact with business all the time. There would be nothing unusual about government participation in a stadium deal. Where that’s good policy is another matter.

    As for size, the stadium is really not a very big deal.

  26. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/04/2011 - 12:57 pm.

    One of the limitations of beat journalism is that the beat reporter finds it difficult to go very far beyond what people are saying. And if they aren’t saying what they are thinking, then the story becomes very incomplete. In this case, politicians want the stadium, but they aren’t willing to say they want the stadium. That being the case, it’s hard for beat reporters to tell something like the whole story because that would involve mind reading on their part, and because such speculation is open to charges of bias.

    Beat reporters use various methods to get around this, some perhaps more ethical than others. On a basic level, you can derive some sense of what reporters think is going on by how the story is reported, which quote comes first, or which quote is at the end. Sometimes, the number of and space given to quotes can be significant. One common way of passive seeming editorializng is the use of anonymous quotes. Sometimes these quotes come from actual participants, the deep throat kind of quote. Far more often they are in the form of “some observers say”. When you see that, what reporters are doing is simply quoting other reporters who with their familiarity with the needs of their colleagues in the profession, are far more likely to give them exactly what they need then are the people who they actually cover.

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