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Stadium bill debuts as a major muddle

St. Croix Bridge signed into law; Brodkorb-Koch affair confirmed, and Senate denies unfair firing; Minnesota’s first Museums Month; and more.

You may have to control your excitement at the thought of those $150 upper-deck end-zone tickets and $12 Bud Lights. The Vikings stadium is off to a miserable start. MPR’s Tom Scheck writes: “Supporters of a bill that would finance a new $975 million football stadium for the Minnesota Vikings suffered a setback Wednesday. The chairman of the Senate Local Governments Committee said the bill needed more work and postponed a vote on it indefinitely. It wasn’t clear if the bill would have had enough votes to win approval if the committee had voted. Several lawmakers expressed concern during the hearing that the proposal to use electronic pull-tabs to finance the state’s $400 million portion of the stadium might not work. … Gov. Mark Dayton and other stadium supporters are calling on GOP legislative leaders to take a more active role in passing the bill into law. In comments made following Wednesday’s committee hearing, Dayton said leadership needs to signal support for the bill and ensure that it reaches the House and Senate floor for a vote. The Senate committee unexpectedly tabling the bill jeopardizes its chances to pass this year.”

Frederick Melo and Dennis Lien at the PiPress write: “Dayton minced few words while calling for state House and Senate leaders to end the “theatre of the absurd” surrounding the Minnesota Vikings stadium proposal and move the bill to a final vote. Without identifying House Speaker Kurt Zellers and Senate Majority Leader David Senjem by name, the governor sounded a rueful tone Wednesday, March 14, while urging the Republican leadership to take the stadium proposal to an up-or-down vote on the Senate and House floors. ‘I know when I’m not getting any help’, Dayton said. ‘I’m not as naive as someone thinks I am.’ … [Ted] Mondale described to the committee the jobs, activities and amenities it will provide. He said the state would get $450 million more gross dollars over time than it puts in, if things like taxes on players salaries are taken into account. Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Newport, expressed concerns about cost overruns during construction. But Mondale said protective provisions are included in the bill, stressing the numbers built into the stadium bill are conservative and solid. Several spoke out against the stadium bill, including vocal stadium opponent, Tom Goldstein of St. Paul. The Vikings actually aren’t paying nearly as much as the team says it is, he said. Naming rights, parking revenue and NFL funds will help the team make back its contribution.”

One assumes the Strib is displeased by all this negativity. Mike Kaszuba and Jennifer Brooks report: “Bill sponsor Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, insisted however that the postponed vote was not a setback. Following the hearing, Rosen said she would ask Sen. Ray Vandeveer, R-Forest Lake, the committee chair, to reconsider the legislation by Friday after stadium negotiators reexamined  the bill’s most controversial issues — including using electronic bingo and pull tabs to fund the state’s $398 million stadium share.  In order to address concerns that the gambling revenues may not be adequate, Rosen said Wednesday that state officials were considering using user fees — such as sports memorabilia fees — to serve as a financial backup source of funding. Stadium negotiators were expected to work frantically over the next two days to try to meet Friday’s legislative deadline to have the bill clear its first committee. … The pro-stadium lineup included Vikings officials and local government representatives, along with fans like Larry Spooner, who was so happy to see a stadium bill — any stadium bill — come up for a hearing, he showed up at the Capitol at 3:30 a.m. to stake out a good seat for the 1 p.m. hearing. ‘I consider myself the most passionate stadium fan in the state,’ said Spooner, sporting head-to-toe purple and holding a sign: ‘Vikings Stadium Yes!’ ” … Which, oddly, is also known as “business appropriate” attire for the Strib’s editorial page.

It’s a done deal. President Obama signed the bill authorizing the $700 million St. Croix bridge. Says Kevin Diaz in the Strib: “The president’s signature comes two weeks — nearly the maximum allowed — after Congress gave the needed environmental clearances for the $690 million project, the largest public works project in state history. White House officials have not explained the time lag, but it will enter into the lore of the bridge, which has been delayed decades in the courts and in Congress. Right down to the end, despite overwhelming votes in both the House and Senate, the bridge divided Democrats and administration officials alike. While pro-labor Democrats emphasized the jobs potential of the project, environmentalists in the Interior Department raised flags about granting such a conspicuous exemption to the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, a landmark environmental law authored by native son Walter Mondale.” So is it too late to buy 10 acres for a strip mall in Somerset?

Oh, and I hope you’re sitting down … . It turns out that Michael Brodkorb was the one canoodling with former Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch. The AP story says: “An attorney for a fired Senate staffer confirmed Wednesday that his client had an intimate relationship with former Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch. Attorney Phil Villaume said the admission is in a notice of claim he filed with the state as part of potential litigation by the staffer, Michael Brodkorb. The revelation came after a breakdown in talks between Brodkorb and the Senate for possible mediation over his dismissal. Senate Secretary Cal Ludeman first announced the break, saying the Senate had refused Brodkorb’s mediation request because he hadn’t given any reason to dispute his termination. … Villaume said he planned to pursue a claim for gender discrimination. He said his argument would be that Brodkorb was fired for an affair with Koch, while female staffers who had affairs with male bosses at the Legislature over the years were not treated similarly. ‘It’s a real unique kind of claim but we feel a strong one,’ he said.” That’s real unique, counselor.

Meanwhile, Rachel Stassen-Berger of the Strib writes: “The Secretary of the Minnesota Senate said Wednesday that ex-employee Michael Brodkorb has provided no ‘factual basis’ to challenge his firing late last year and ‘his claims are without any merit whatsoever.’ ‘Despite Mr. Brodkorb’s efforts to disrupt the work of the Senate in the current legislative session, to distract members of the Senate, to extort a payment from the Senate and to try his so-called claims in the media, the Senate will not allow that to succeed,’ Cal Ludeman, the secretary of the Senate, said in a statement.” So, I say again, we can assume the state GOP is just fine with Brodkorb telling his story to whoever might want to hear or buy it?

Carol Kino of the New York Times shines a spotlight on our first annual Museums Month: “In Minnesota, May is now Minnesota Museums Month, the country’s first monthlong, statewide celebration of museums. It is the creation of several Twin Cities museum administrators, who expect it to become an annual event. ‘There are stories that we each try to tell individually, whenever a special exhibition is happening,’ said Phillip Bahar, the chief of operations at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. ‘What we want to do is tell the stories that we don’t have the opportunity to tell very often, about the broader community of museums across the state.’ This particular story begins with this year’s annual meeting of the American Association of Museums, to be held in Minneapolis-St. Paul from April 29 to May 2. Typically, committees in the host city meet for months in advance to plan events and activities for attendees. But not for nothing is Minneapolis known as the Emerald City of philanthropy; from the beginning, many of the organizers were determined to do more.”

I’m partial to my schefflera plant that has bounced back from two hail storms. But “influential”? It seems there’s a poll under way. At MPR, Tom Crann and U of M prof Mary Meyer discussed “10 Plants That Changed Minnesota”: “The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum wants you to nominate your pick for the “10 Plants That Changed Minnesota.” The new initiative, which nwill include education at K-12 and college levels, is led by Mary Meyer, a professor of horticultural science at the University of Minnesota.
Crann: Here in the state of Minnesota, what has made a plant influential historically? And give us some examples from around the state.
Meyer: We have great diversity in our three different vegetative regions or biomes. The prairie that’s in the west, especially the northwest. The Red River Valley, that’s where the bonanza wheat farms were. And that’s really not a myth, those things really existed, those huge farms with wheat, and now sugar beets, are up there. Up in the Arrowhead we have the coniferous forest and the white pines. The massive white pines were used in Europe even before we were a state. Our white pines were famous. Down in the southwestern part of the state we have the maple [and] basswood forest. … But maple trees are the source of maple syrup, that’s one of our first crops to come out of the state. We have great diversity in Minnesota.”

May 8 and June 5 have been set for recall elections in Wisconsin. Lee Bergquist of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports: “If primaries are held, voters would go to the polls on June 5 for recall elections involving Gov. Scott Walker, the lieutenant governor and four Republican state senators, under an agreement signed by a judge on Wednesday. The agreement also calls for primaries — or a general election in the event there are no primaries — to take place on May 8. As part of the stipulation, attorneys for the recall committees, their recall targets and the Government Accountability Board agreed that the state elections agency should receive an extension to certify petitions until March 30. … On Monday, the accountability board said that just over 931,000 signatures had been submitted to recall Walker. To conduct a recall, 540,208 valid signatures are needed. Nearly 843,000 signatures were submitted against Kleefisch, according to the board. In the gubernatorial race, Democrats who have declared their candidacy are former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk and Sen. Kathleen Vinehout of Alma. Other possible candidates include Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Douglas La Follette, the secretary of state.”