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More stadium machinations

AFTERNOON EDITION ALSO: Anoka-Hennepin policy dispute; gay marriage ruling’s mixed results; a frustrating fender-bender; hopes of legislative cooperation; and more.
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Kevin Seifert of ESPN looks at the news that the Metrodome is this year’s “approved” site for a new Vikings stadium and says: “That Dayton’s site is on the current Metrodome grounds, however, appears to have enraged the Vikings and shifted the burden of further progress to them. Do they fall in line and accept a site that appears to be the most economically limited and least exciting option, but also the cheapest and least disruptive? Do they wait a year, sign a short-term lease to return to the Metrodome and renew their push for a more vibrant site next year? Or should they exert the leverage of their expiring lease and begin fielding relocation overtures? My guess is the NFL wouldn’t consider the Vikings to be serious relocation candidates as long as a credible stadium proposal, however flawed it might be, remains on the table. Unfortunately, grandiose ideas and award-winning vision have probably met political reality. … The Vikings have been politically strong-armed into their least-desirable option. … Most notably, there are few details available on how the city would fund its portion of the project, and the Vikings have not said how much they would pay, either. In the end, however, it appears [Mayor R.T.} Rybak has been operating from a position of strength. It’s obvious that the most powerful political forces in the state want the stadium in downtown Minneapolis, and they have maneuvered to block off all other options.” Minneapolis has a way of “winning” these sorts of things.

National stadium/boondoggle watcher Neil deMause, at Field of Schemes, writes: “The bright side if you’re the Vikings owners (or dark side if you’re an opponent of spending hundreds of millions of dollars in public money on a Vikings stadium) is that Dayton is at least attempting to focus legislative attention on one site, unenthusiastic as he may be about it. We’ll see if this tactic is enough for the legislature to actually act on it, or if they decide to punt the whole mess to 2013 in the hopes that the laws of mathematics have been revised by then.” … Always love a good “Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reference” in my stadium talk.

At MPR, Tim Nelson was on Cathy Wurzer’s morning show discussing Monday’s developments. A sample:
“WURZER: So this is a done deal?
NELSON: Oh, no. Not by a long shot. There are plenty of hurdles left here.
Let me walk you through some of them. First, if they rebuild the Metrodome, the Vikings can’t use their home field for three years. They’ll probably have to go over to TCF Bank stadium, and they estimate they’ll lose about $37 million in the process and no one has offered to make them whole. The state will also probably have to add seats and put a heating system under the turf. I talked to the Vikings vice president Lester Bagley last night, and he said the team was quote “extremely frustrated” unquote by this turn of events. This is the same deal the Vikings literally dismissed last May. Utterly rejected. And they might do that again. The second hurdle here is Minneapolis politics. The city voters approved a ban on stadium spending over 10 million on sports stadiums in 1997. And this deal has the city putting up about $315 million for a new Vikings stadium alone — and another $100 million in local sales taxes for the Target Center to boot. The mayor and City Council president have said that they’re willing to ask the Legislature to overrule their own Minneapolis voters. But one of the people that put that $10 million cap in the city charter, Gary Schiff, is now on the city council and there could yet be a revolt in City Hall. They’re scheduled to meet and talk about this on Thursday.”

Oh, come on, what’s $305 million more than you’re allowed to spend when you’re this close?        

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And in a slog that has gone on nearly as long as the Vikings’ ordeal, Tom Weber of MPR reports on the Anoka-Hennepin policy dispute: “A newly-revised policy on how teachers should handle contentious issues including sexual orientation when they come up in class appears to be gaining support in the state’s largest school district. … The first proposed policy change would have instructed teachers to withhold their personal views during class discussions on controversial topics. That approach drew nearly universal opposition, often based on the complaint that it wasn’t any clearer than the existing sexual orientation policy. On Monday night, a second replacement was introduced, the Respectful Learning Environment Curriculum. It states that teachers should not try to persuade students to adopt or reject any particular viewpoints, and also says district staff should affirm the dignity and self-worth of all students when discussing contentious issues.” I’ll take their word that they’re getting somewhere.                                                                                         

The judicial panel ruling that will allow the question of gay marriage to go to court is a mixed bag for the gay community. In the American Independent, Andy Birkey writes: “Minnesotans for Marriage, a group composed of the Minnesota Family Council, the National Organization for Marriage, and the Minnesota Catholic Conference, quickly condemned the appellate court decision. ‘This is exactly the type of case that has resulted in same-sex marriage being imposed in other states and highlights the need to enact the Marriage Protection Amendment next November,’ said Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, in a statement. The MCC is the public policy wing of the Roman Catholic Church in Minnesota. ‘Marriage will now go on trial in Hennepin County and Minnesota citizens will be at the mercy of a judge to maintain our centuries-long definition of marriage,’ Adkins said. He said the case was a ‘wake-up call’ that the judges could decide in favor of marriage equality, something his group opposes.” In other words, the fight begins in earnest.

No fender bender is simple … if you’ve mashed into a lawyer. From the Duluth News Tribune’s Brandon Stahl is this story: “On Nov. 18, Carlton County Attorney Thom Pertler and Cloquet resident Tracy Vargason were in a minor car accident at Minnesota 33 and Big Lake Road in Cloquet. No one was hurt, but events after that have spiraled to where Vargason is suing Pertler, claiming he was responsible for the accident and should cover her $1,000 deductible for car repairs, and that what he told his insurance company differs from his initial statement to police. … Vargason said that after she submitted her insurance claims, Pertler’s insurance company responded by saying she was at fault for the accident by turning on a red light. But police reports indicate that Pertler didn’t challenge Vargason’s assessment of the accident shortly after it occurred. According to one report, an officer wrote Vargason was making a ‘left turn’ on the green arrow when Pertler made a right turn and both tried to enter the same lane at the same time. The officer coded Pertler’s turn as being done on a red light.”

I assume your hopes are not for any more civic-minded reasonableness from certain quarters of the Legislature than you saw last year. Megan Boldt of the PiPress writes, “There is no doubt those deep divisions within the Republican caucuses remain, said Larry Jacobs, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for the Study of Politics and Governance. Jacobs said many of those new lawmakers arrived last year with an enormous amount of enthusiasm but little to no experience in public service. And their commitment to their principles hasn’t wavered. ‘The ‘what can we get done’ concept is just not widely shared,’ Jacobs said. ‘We’ve moved from kind of bargaining on the details to a collision over principles. And that’s a recipe for some pretty serious divisions.’ Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, is one of those newcomers who had no political experience before he won his Senate seat in 2010. He said there is a willingness to compromise on certain issues. He didn’t like the spending and school aid shift in last year’s budget deal, but he voted for it because it didn’t raise taxes. But he and his colleagues won’t back down on the core values voters sent them to the Capitol to represent. ‘What you’re seeing is a group of people that aren’t career politicians, but they believe in something and that’s why they’re here. I believe in limited government and personal freedom,’ Thompson said. ‘I won’t compromise on principles. … If that makes me an extremist, so be it.’ ” Well, good, now that that has been re-established …

One our favorite (and least publicity-shy) legislators, Steve “The Draz” Drazkowski, from Mazeppa, offers a commentary on his [Republican] party’s goals for this session. In the Winona Daily News, he writes: “Private-sector job providers told us they are playing at a competitive disadvantage with neighboring states because Minnesota has higher taxes, more regulations and more difficult permitting. Reform 2.0 seeks to get government out of their way so they can create jobs and help improve Minnesota’s economy. That means giving job creators some direct property tax relief and continuing to improve our permitting process. It will also lead to creating a Small Business Regulatory Review Board that will review current rules and repeal those that are outdated or duplicative and have a negative impact on the state’s economy. And it also means reforming the prevailing wage laws that significantly impact the cost of construction in rural Minnesota. … Welfare reform will also be addressed. Minnesota has a Cadillac plan when compared with welfare programs in neighboring states. The taxpayers are tired of it, and we will work to mirror welfare standards with those states on our borders. While this plan is still under consideration, some changes could include changing the maximum income for eligibility, altering the monthly cash allowance, changing the time limit to 36 months from 60 months, and instituting a permanent disqualification for drug offenders.”  … And it goes on from there.