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White Earth tribe offers $400 million for stadium/casino package

Fireworks bill still alive; Wilf’s stadium contribution; Fishing Opener plan panned; weather guy Paul Douglas takes on doubters; road work season; and more.

So, are we really going to look a taxpayer-free gift of $400 miillion in the mouth? Doug Belden at the PiPress writes: “In an effort to stir up support for its metro casino plan, the White Earth Nation is offering the state $400 million upfront and a stake in the proceeds that could go toward a new Vikings stadium. The project, billed as MinnesotaWins, would be a casino operated by White Earth in partnership with Minnesota. Net revenues, once running, would be split 50-50 between the tribe and Minnesota. ‘Minnesota will have the money, the Vikings will be able to proceed in a timely manner — taking advantage of today’s low interest rates and favorable construction costs — and taxpayers need have no concern that they will be on the hook,’ said Erma Vizenor, chairwoman of White Earth Nation, in a prepared statement Thursday … The White Earth proposal will likely face stiff opposition at the Capitol from anti-gambling advocates as well as potential competitors. The White Earth Tribe is Minnesota’s largest tribe accounting for almost 40 percent of Minnesota’s native population. Located in northwestern Minnesota, it is also the state’s economically poorest tribe. According to their projections, the casino could bring Minnesota first-year net revenues of about $140 million. The amount would grow to $220 million in the fifth year, totall[ing] about $968 million pay-out in the first five years.

Baird Helgeson at the Strib (like Belden) offers an update of various elements of the stadium package: “Without discussion or the debate, the House Rules Committee sent the stadium legislation to its next committee stop. The committee is not likely to hold a hearing before a week-long legislative break for Easter and Passover. Vikings vice president Lester Bagley, who has led the lobbying effort to win approval for the nearly $1 billion publicly-funded stadium, sat silently in the back of the hearing room, holding a giant cup of Starbucks coffee. It is far from certain legislators can pass stadium legislation this session, which could end in just a couple weeks. The proposal has made it through just one committee in the House and not a single panel in the Senate. Many legislators would prefer to put off the debate until next year, after November elections.”

But, hey! That fireworks bill keeps chugging along … Says Jim Ragsdale at the Strib: “The House Government Operations and Elections Committee defeated amendments designed to give local governments more control over the use of aerial fireworks. Then the Republican-controlled committee sent the bill on a path to return to the House floor, with a stopover on the Rules Committee. The bill, sponsored by Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove, would allow the sale and use of the full range of consumer fireworks, including aerial rockets and firecrackers. Currently, the state only allows the sale and use of ground-based items such as small fountains, sparklers and snakes.”  Come on, people! Don’t make me make another trip to the Missouri line.

In an age of private equity/leveraged buy-outs, only chumps use their own money. Tim Nelson at MPR writes: “State officials have pledged $400 million to the project, and the city of Minneapolis has offered another $150 million in upfront money. But there hasn’t been much discussion about the third leg of stadium financing: the $427 million that the Vikings owners have pledged to the project. Team officials call that part of the deal “private money.” But that doesn’t mean team owner and East Coast developer Zygi Wilf will necessarily foot the bill. Instead, it appears the Vikings will employ a hallmark of real estate deals, and do much of their financial lifting with other people’s money. The Vikings owners will use a mix of National Football League funds, revenue generated by the new stadium, and money paid by fans watching games in the stadium to finance the lion’s share of their upfront contribution to the project.” … Which is how the NFL wants this thing done.

The Glean

The possible new, earlier date for this year’s Fishing Opener is not all great news for resort owners. At the Duluth News Tribune, Sam Cook writes:  “While most anglers probably would welcome getting on the water a week earlier, especially after an early ice-out and unseasonably warm weather, reaction in the tourism industry is mixed. ‘The only positive I see is that it would give one more week of possible revenue,’ said Gail Heig, owner of Bowen Lodge on Lake Winnibigoshish north of Deer River. ‘The negatives are too numerous to count’. … Resort guests often plan their opening weekend vacations well in advance, and many want to stay in the same cabin on that weekend every year. Moving the opener around creates problems for resort owners trying to keep all their customers happy, Heig said. The Mother’s Day angle doesn’t play well, either, she said. Mother’s Day, which falls on the Sunday of opening weekend about half the time, isn’t a major issue in most families, Heig said. ‘We have a lot of mothers that fish,’ she said. ‘I fish. I don’t mind spending the opener with 200 men. And a lot of women don’t mind that their husbands go fishing that weekend.’ ”

I should have caught this last week. But weather guy Paul Douglas, in The Huffington Post, demonstrates a remarkable level of steel by taking on his own party’s flat-earthers … without equivocation: “I’m going to tell you something that my Republican friends are loath to admit out loud: climate change is real. I’m a moderate Republican, fiscally conservative; a fan of small government, accountability, self-empowerment and sound science. I am not a climate scientist. I’m a Penn State meteorologist, and the weather maps I’m staring at are making me very uncomfortable. No, you’re not imagining it: we’ve clicked into a new and almost foreign weather pattern. To complicate matters I’m in a small, frustrated and endangered minority: a Republican deeply concerned about the environmental sacrifices some are asking us to make to keep our economy powered-up. It’s ironic. The root of the word conservative is ‘conserve.’ A staunch Republican, Teddy Roosevelt, set aside vast swaths of America for our National Parks System, the envy of the world. Another Republican, Richard Nixon, launched the EPA. Now some in my party believe the EPA and all those silly ‘global warming alarmists’ are going to get in the way of drilling and mining our way to prosperity. Well, we have good reason to be alarmed. … Some TV meteorologists, professionals skilled at predicting short-term weather, are still in denial. Why? Some don’t like being upstaged by climate scientists. We’ve all been burned by weather models, and some (mistakenly) apply the same suspicion to climate simulations. Others can’t or won’t take the time to dig into the climate science. ‘It’s all political,’ one local TV weather-friend told me recently. No, it’s science. But we’ve turned it into a political football, a bizarre litmus test for conservatism. Weather and climate are flip-sides of the same coin; you can’t talk about one without understanding the other.” From personal experience, I can assure you Douglas is in “troll hell.”

My blogging colleague, Joe Loveland at the Same Rowdy Crowd, links to Douglas and says: “In contrast to KSTP-TV weather man Dave Dahl, Douglas has long been a believer in climate change. But he really provoked the anti-science crowd in this tour de force.”

In case you’re counting, it’ll be 316 … different road construction projects around the state this season. Jessica Mador at MPR reports: “This year’s state road construction projects include work on the Interstate 694 and Highway 10 interchange in the Twin Cities, and final work on an Interstate 35 bridge in Duluth. … Other projects planned this year for the Twin Cities metro area include work on the Highway 52 Lafayette Bridge in St. Paul, resurfacing of Interstate 35E between St. Paul and Forest Lake, and continuing work on the Hwy 169 and I-494 interchange.”

One sure sign of a politician feeling the heat is (very) self-consciously invoking the deity in his/or her defense. Don Walker of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel writes: “In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Gov. Scott Walker tells an interviewer about his faith and how it has sustained him and his family since he took office in January 2011. Walker told interviewer David Brody, the network’s chief political correspondent, that prayer has been important to him and his family. And it has made his family stronger, the governor said. Referring to his family, Walker says: ‘We realize that all this is just a temporary thing and God’s got a plan for us that, who knows where it might be, beyond just serving as governor of this state, but if we stay true to that, there’s always comfort. And God’s grace is always abundant no matter what you do.’ Walker said Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch asked him recently if he felt he was living his faith strong enough. Walker said he told her that it was not just about quoting Scripture. ‘It’s on how you live,’ Walker said.” Purely by coincidence, Newsweek’s cover story touches on pretty much exactly this.