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Deal reportedly made on stadium site

A tentative deal has reportedly been reached to build a Vikings stadium near the site of the Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis. The Strib’s Kevin Duchschere, who says the deal was reached last night, reports  “Word of the agreement emerged after a working group met behind closed doors at the Capitol. The parties were said to have reached a tentative deal nearly two weeks ago. But stumbling blocks remained, apparently over how to divide the costs, how the parties would divide stadium revenue from non-NFL events and over the design of a large plaza-like park that would be built on the downtown side of the new stadium.

“That deal was for a $975 million stadium to be built just off the east side of the Metrodome. Under that deal, the city was to contribute $150 million, the state’s share would be close to $400 million and the team would pay $427 million. The city was also to pay about $180 million in operating costs over the next 30 years, sources said at the time. It wasn’t possible to confirm whether those terms were in the agreement reached Wednesday night.”

Details of the agreement are to be released later today.

Steve Sviggum has been told to make a choice. Mila Koumpilova’s PiPress story says: “An outside attorney and the University of Minnesota’s own general counsel say Regent Steve Sviggum’s job with the state Senate Republicans is in conflict with his board duties. University counsel Mark Rotenberg and Minneapolis attorney John Stout both see a ‘fundamental, systemic clash’ between Sviggum’s unpaid regent service and his communications director job for the Senate Republican Caucus. In their opinions released by the school Wednesday, they wrote Sviggum cannot manage that conflict by recusals and needs to choose between the two posts.”

Jenna Ross’s Strib story says: “‘This systemic conflict cannot be eliminated, managed or cured,’ wrote John Stout, of the Minneapolis firm Fredrikson & Byron. ‘The public’s confidence, the integrity of the Board and the protection of the University’s public mission require that Regent Sviggum relinquish one of the two positions he currently holds.’ The U’s general counsel, Mark Rotenberg, concurred. … A three-regent committee will consider the opinions at a meeting Friday before making a recommendation to the full board, which could vote on the matter March 8. Sviggum, who took the job as executive assistant to the Senate GOP caucus in January, has questioned Stout’s impartiality and submitted a legal opinion of his own, by an attorney he has not named. In a letter to regents, Sviggum noted that he ‘expressed a great concern’ about having Rotenberg involved in any review of his situation. ‘I feel Mr. Rotenberg is not unbiased and has already made up his mind on the conflict of interest.’ The opinion Sviggum released Tuesday argues that ‘this current “inquiry” lacks policy and legal basis’ and concludes that ‘it is unlikely that Sviggum will be presented with any issue that presents an issue where his judgment may be impaired.'” Gentlemen, start your hourly billing clocks.

Tony Cornish of “Castle Doctrine” fame also wants to protect (and arm) prosecuting attorneys. Says Dennis Lien in the PiPress: “A pair of bills that would beef up protections for prosecutors cleared the Minnesota House on Wednesday. One of the bills would increase penalties for people convicted of killing or assaulting prosecuting attorneys, and the other would allow county attorneys or assistant county attorneys to carry guns while working. Sponsored by state Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, the bills were sought by county attorneys and got overwhelming approval, with few legislators questioning them. Passed 130-1, the first of the bills would increase penalties for people convicted of killing or assaulting prosecuting attorneys, essentially placing them on par with police officers. A prosecuting attorney could be from the U.S. district attorney’s office, the attorney general’s office or a county or city attorney’s office. The second bill, which passed 116-15, would lift an existing restriction banning county attorneys and assistant county attorneys from carrying firearms while on the job.” So the shorter list will soon be who is not packing guns in court, right?

Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa is upset about the way Minnesota doctors are prescribing OxyContin (a.k.a. “Hillybilly Heroin”) and other heavy duty painkillers. At the PiPress Christopher Snowbeck writes: “In a January letter to state officials, U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, wrote that he found several ‘shocking’ examples of potential abuse in Minnesota from his review of the prescribing habits of certain physicians. In one case, the top Minnesota prescriber of the painkiller OxyContin wrote more than twice the number of prescriptions for the drug in 2009 than the state’s No. 2 prescriber, Grassley wrote. It led the senator to question whether the state is providing adequate scrutiny. ‘These types of drugs have addictive properties, and the potential for fraud and abuse by prescribers and patients is extremely high,’ Grassley wrote in a letter dated Jan. 23. ‘Mental health drugs continue to be prescribed at astounding rates and pain management clinics are turning into a hotbed for black market painkillers.’”

I really need to keep up on my fashion reading. Tom Webb of the PiPress reports: “Target Corp. said it will stop selling sand-blasted denim later this year, saying today that the process is dangerous for the workers who manufacture blue jeans. Giving blue jeans a distressed or lived-in look is quite popular, but the mechanical process of blasting sand on denim ‘contaminates the air workers breathe and can lead to an incurable lung disease called silicosis,’ Target said on its corporate blog.” But has anyone looked into the psychological damage from wearing Selena Gomez or Justin Bieber t-shirts?

MPR’s Brett Neely, in DC, files a report on the U.S. House debating the St. Croix bridge: “Saying it was ‘a once in a lifetime magic moment,’ the bill’s chief House sponsor, Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann urged her colleagues to support the measure. Congressional action is needed because the St. Croix River is protected by the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. While there is near-unanimous support that the Stillwater lift bridge is old and in need of replacement, the issue pits DFL Reps. Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison, who oppose the nearly $700 million freeway-style bridge under design, against Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, both Democrats, as well as Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and members of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation. ‘This is not a good use of taxpayer money,’ said Ellison during the debate. ‘I find it absolutely shocking that all of these fiscal conservatives lining up to throw money at this overly-expensive, overly-hyped mega-bridge.’ Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia noted that the legislation’s language resembles an earmark, which House Republicans have prohibited. ‘If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, by golly, it’s probably a duck!’ said Rahall.” In MinnPost’s Devin Henry’s report on the House floor debate, Bachmann goes after McCollum for not suporting the project.

At MPR, Paul Tosto offers a “primer” on the bridge. It concludes with this: “What happens if the bill passes the House? The U.S. Senate has already passed an identical bill, so if the House passes the legislation it will go to President Barack Obama for his signature into law. Neely writes, ‘Republican leaders appear confident the measure will pass. They’re considering it under special rules requiring a two-thirds majority for passage that are traditionally reserved for non-controversial legislation. Still, opposition from McCollum has slowed the process.’ With the go-ahead, MnDOT expects to start building next year and complete the project in 2016.

“What happens if it doesn’t pass? It won’t be back to square one exactly. But it would throw the St. Croix span project back into limbo. Gov. Mark Dayton has told lawmakers that if congressional approval doesn’t come by March 15, he’ll release the money Minnesota’s already set aside for the project. ‘Everyone must understand, however, that if the March 15th deadline cannot be met and the federal and state monies are reallocated to other Minnesota transportation projects, there will no longer be sufficient funding available to undertake the St. Croix Crossing Project in the foreseeable future,’ Dayton wrote.”

Medtronic’s ex-CEO has signed on to lead a new partnership that includes the U of M. Says James Walsh’s Strib story: “Former Medtronic Inc. CEO Bill Hawkins has signed on as the inaugural chairman of a new public-private partnership that aims to bring a new regulatory sciences center for medical technology to Minnesota. The partnership brings together Minnesota’s medical technology community, the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH), and the University of Minnesota. … LifeScience Alley CEO Dale Wahlstrom said the goal of the regulatory sciences center project is to improve the development, testing and approval process for medical devices. A computer modeling project at the University of Minnesota’s Medical Devices Center will be the first effort to come out of the center, he said. In much the same way that aircraft manufacturers use computer modeling to design and test new airplanes, the new center will seek to create computer models of parts of the human body that the entire medical device industry can use.”

Job-creation watching in Wisconsin. Jason Stein and Lee Bergquist of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel report: “Gov. Scott Walker signed legislation Wednesday to loosen state regulations on development in wetlands. The Republican governor approved the controversial legislation before an appreciative audience from the Wisconsin Realtors Association. Realtors, builders and property rights advocates pushed for the legislation, saying current law hamstrings development and the changes would better balance environmental interests and the rights of property owners. ‘It’s a great example of how government can be a true partner in economic development instead of a barrier,’ Walker said. But groups such as the Wisconsin Wetlands Association and Trout Unlimited said the changes leaned too heavily toward allowing wetland destruction and would cause long-term harm in many locales.” Weenies! I see ducks in the pond in front of Home Depot all the time.

Comments (18)

  1. Submitted by Walt Cygan on 03/01/2012 - 07:44 am.

    Stadium deal

    I just don’t understand why we can’t get a reasonable cost/benefit analysis of a stadium. Also, how does the public subsidy compare with recent stadium projects in other cities? Is this a good deal, or an ego-driven project with no up-side for taxpayers?

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/01/2012 - 10:19 am.

      Been there, done that

      There have been several studies of the economics of new sports facilities. None of them shown any lasting benefit (at best, there is a short-term jolt for construction trades).

      “[E]go-driven project with no up-side for taxpayers” sums things up nicely.

  2. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/01/2012 - 08:08 am.

    stadium deal

    Stadium builders deliberately by-pass and avoid the analysis your requesting because they know it won’t support their subsidy. It is strange that the entire stadium debate takes place on the Op ed pages, blogs, comments, and articles in places like Minnpost here. This is a billion dollar policy decision and no comprehensive economic study has ever been commissioned or discussed.

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 03/01/2012 - 08:37 am.

      A “tentative deal”? Between exactly who and whom?

      It certainly does not include the taxpayer – only those who seek to pick the pocket of the taxpayer. That’s why it has to be done behind closed doors.

  3. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/01/2012 - 08:15 am.

    Sviggum has disgraced himself.

    Let me get this straight, Sviggum’s anonymous lawyer disputes the impartiality of the University’s lawyers? Seriously? He won’t even tell us where he got his counter-opinion but he’s sure the U can’t be trusted to be impartial? Uh huh. Even if this were a high school debate Sviggum wouldn’t get any points.

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 03/01/2012 - 08:33 am.

      Mr. Swiggum is a little too clingy…

      …to these 2 jobs, which makes me suspicious. Why not thank everyone for their assistance and step aside with some grace?

      Why is Steve Swiggum so determined to hold both positions?

    • Submitted by Dimitri Drekonja on 03/01/2012 - 10:50 am.

      I find the idea of an anonymous legal opinion hilarious– I’ve been asked to provide expert medical opinions, and I never would have considered proposing that I submit it anonymously. Apparently I lack that creative “outside-the-box” thinking. I can think of 2 reasons for an anonymous legal opinion 1) it wasn’t written by a lawyer, and 2) the lawyer is so embarrassed that he wants no possible association with it. Either way, not a winning hand.

  4. Submitted by Rod Loper on 03/01/2012 - 08:15 am.

    Stadium

    Who pays who plays and who profits? Why doesn’t the public ever profit from it’s investment in these boondoggles? Socialism for the rich and free markets for the rest of us.

  5. Submitted by Pat Berg on 03/01/2012 - 08:50 am.

    Good for Target

    I have to give Target credit. While there are ways to protect the health of workers who sandblast the jeans, taking such measures would cost more money. Target chooses not to spend that additional money – which is their choice – and then also does the right thing by saying that if they’re not willing to spend what it takes to protect workers’ health and safety, that they will no longer sell the product that requires that expenditure.

    I’m happy to see Target making responsible choices on this one.

  6. Submitted by Mark Stromseth on 03/01/2012 - 09:00 am.

    Zygi’s Billion Dollar Playpen

    I don’t see how such deals can take place behind closed doors without violating the state’s open meeting law, and without public input. For a group of Repubs who claim taxes can’t be raised because they can cut-cut-cut to a balanced budget, they obviously don’t know anything about economics or the real world.

    And now they want taxpayers to fund a billion-dollar playpen for a Vikings owner who claims to be a real estate magnate and has plenty of assets to get himself a loan to build it. But has anybody in state government considered saying ‘No’ to this blackmail and telling him that? Of course not; that would be too simple, and economically sound. We also don’t have a cost-benefit analysis of this monstrosity, which would clearly show that it’s not a good investment, no matter the timeline.

    Just another example of how the corporations always get what they want by having access to the people that can make it happen for them, even if it violates state law and screws the taxpayers.

  7. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 03/01/2012 - 09:03 am.

    Ouch!

    Rep. Bachmann was really tearing into McCollum this morning on the radio!

    Standing against a construction project that has wide bi-partisan support and is a direct benefit to your new district is a great way to introduce yourself to your constituents Betty…good luck with that next election!

    • Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 03/01/2012 - 01:45 pm.

      The Big Bridge Boondoggle

      Betty McCollum pointed out during the House debate on this bill that the residents of Oak Park Heights would end up paying an extra $443 per year in real estate taxes for the next ten years to help cover this cost of this unnecessarily large bridge.

      No one is saying there is no need for a new bridge; just that it doesn’t have to cost $900 million while other roads and bridges all around the state go without sometimes desperately needed repairs. The difference in price would mean that jobs increase twice: once to build the smaller bridge and again to upgrade all the roads in bridges that need it.

      She also noted that, if the Big Bridge is built, the plan is to leave the lift bridge in place (but not used by automobiles) and raise it every time a boat needs to pass underneath, just as is done now. This will not be done at zero cost.

      If I were a Bachmann constituent I’d be giving thanks this moment that she would no longer have any influence over decisions that affect me and my neighbors and would be delighted to have Rep. McCollum representing our real needs — not those of whoever first decided the bridge should be Big, Really Big.

      • Submitted by Mark Gisleson on 03/01/2012 - 03:41 pm.

        A boondoogle is a boondoggle is a boondoggle

        whether you name it after Martin Sabo or Ronald Reagan. Stillwater’s very lucky to be getting a Democratic Congresswoman who won’t waste their tax dollars building too much bridge just so that Minnesota workers living in Wisconsin can save a few miles on their tax-dodging commutes.

  8. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 03/01/2012 - 09:37 am.

    Rotenberg’s opinion?

    This is the same Mark Rotenberg who offered his “opinion” on other landmark cases, the latest being the Jimmy Williams fiasco? My money’s on Sviggum if that’s the case.

  9. Submitted by Arito Moerair on 03/01/2012 - 10:05 am.

    Sviggum shouldn’t be given a choice. He should be barred from the regents for life. This is the second time since he assumed the regents position that he has been accused of having a conflict of interest. Doesn’t that count for something? The relationship between Sviggum and the University needs to end now and end permanently.

    Oh, they tried. The GOP really tried. They tried to install the most extreme, partisan, anti-U guy they could find for this position. They really had high hopes for him. High hopes that he could derail the liberal indoctrination factory. High hopes that he could push for the firing of thousands of employees.

    For a guy who has spent the better part of his life bellyaching about government, he sure enjoys feeding at the trough.

  10. Submitted by Pat McGee on 03/01/2012 - 12:53 pm.

    Stadium Deal

    Please get more details on the Minneapolis contribution. Where is it coming from? Does this bypass Council and/or a referendum?

  11. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 03/01/2012 - 01:36 pm.

    Especially if

    those wanting public subsidies refuse to open their books to prove that a stadium isn’t something they could just write a $900 million check for all by their lonesomes.

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