GOP’s Nienow urges delaying Vikes stadium groundbreaking

Only a couple days after being accused by Gov. Mark Dayton of “shooting his mouth off,” GOP Sen. Sean Nienow is doubling down on his crusade to renegotiate the Vikings stadium deal. At MPR, Tim Nelson says: “Nienow (R-Cambridge) says the state ought to wait for its stadium dessert until after the fiscal broccoli. Nienow says he’s introducing a measure to delay groundbreaking on the stadium until Minnesota’s finance commissioner can certify that the revenues from electronic pulltabs and other sources are sufficient to pay the debt service on the bonds. … Nienow has been sharply critical of the stadium’s financing plan, virtually from the get go, and again in a statement he released Thursday:

Are we really going to build a sports stadium and take money from education, health care and maintaining roads? In who’s world was this a good idea? When the stadium bill was debated, I said the e-pulltab revenue source was based on “fairies and fufu dust.” It appears I have been proven correct.

Grandstanding or not, tell me he doesn’t have a point.

This was the logical blocking maneuver … . The Strib team of Tony Kennedy, Jenna Ross and Anthony Lonetree report: “The University of Minnesota has proposed taking over Fairview Health Services in a move that would pre-empt a possible merger between Fairview and South Dakota-based Sanford Health. Fairview has controlled the U’s medical center since 1997, and the prospect of a Sanford-Fairview merger could put the flagship hospital under new authority out of state. But in a letter to Fairview’s top executive, University President Eric Kaler has proposed a deal in which the university would assume all of Fairview’s assets and liabilities, putting it in control of the Twin Cities’ second-largest hospital and clinic chain. The Jan. 28 letter, obtained by the Star Tribune, said an alignment excluding Sanford would be the “best choice for our patients and communities, our state, and our physicians, staff and students.”

The off-duty Minneapolis cop charged in what looked on video tape like a sucker punch to another patron of an Andover restaurant patio is now on trial. Sarah Horner at the PiPress says, “Guilty people don’t run and hide. That was the sentiment prosecutor Robert Goodell used to open the trial against Minneapolis police Sgt. David Clifford on Thursday, April 4, in Anoka County District Court. … the video shows him leaning over in his chair to say something to Vander Lee, presumably ‘to keep it down,’ Goodell said. Shortly thereafter, the video shows Clifford stand up, walk over to Vander Lee and lean in to say something to him again, Goodell said. At that point, Vander Lee puts his phone down and starts to stand up, which is when Clifford swings, Goodell said. ‘The defendant raises his right hand … and punches him with a closed, cold fist in the head,’ Goodell said. Then, with Vander Lee lying on the ground, Clifford ‘runs away,’ Goodell said.” Doesn’t he mean “innocent people”?

The GleanThe latest in carp … . Josephine Marcotty of the Strib says: “Alarm bells went off in 2011 when wildlife researchers found surprising amounts of DNA from invasive carp in the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers and even above the Coon Rapids Dam. Could the voracious fish already be here in large numbers? Could the DNA have come from the droppings of birds who had eaten the carp elsewhere? Or from illegally released baby carp used as bait? None of the above, it turns out. It was a false alarm. A new, comprehensive analysis released Thursday shows that if there are invasive carp in Minnesota’s rivers, they haven’t left behind any biological fingerprints to prove it.”

And yes, it will cost money to improve the database for firearm background checks. Kyle Potter of the AP writes: “The state Senate Judiciary Committee is trying to determine how much it will cost to dig through old court records for mental health commitment information to send to the national database of people who can’t own a gun. That’s just a small — and uncontroversial — part of a lead DFLer’s move to tighten the state’s gun laws. Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, said Thursday, April 4, that it will ‘fill in the gaps in the current background-check information databases.’ Janet Marshall of the State Court Administrator’s office said many of those records, dating to 1994, aren’t computerized. That could mean extra manpower and significant costs.”

Your bureaucracy in (in)action. Frederick Melo of the PiPress tells readers: “The Metropolitan Council has asked the city of St. Paul to amend its comprehensive plan to include the Lowertown regional ballpark, a process that will involve additional public hearings before the St. Paul Planning Commission. In a letter dated April 3 to St. Paul Planning and Economic Development Director Cecile Bedor, Met Council planners said they had reviewed an environmental assessment worksheet for the 11-acre ballpark project. The ‘review finds that the EAW is complete and accurate with respect to regional concerns and raises no major issues of consistency with council policies,’ according to the letter, which notes that a more formal environmental impact statement will not be necessary. Nevertheless, the city’s Downtown Station Area Plan identifies potential redevelopment for the area as residential, office, retail and hotel: ‘No mention is made of any proposed ball field or entertainment park.’ The city’s comprehensive plan will have to be amended accordingly.” My eyes glazeth over.

Education Commissioner Brenda Casselius offers a commentary in the Strib on the state’s testing regimen. It is in sharp disagreement with another commentary by two local business leaders. “Our urgent priority must be to boost the achievement of all students closer to the levels of our most successful students. According to some, the answer is to burden students and teachers with more of the same old tests. In ‘We can’t ease our way to student achievement’ (April 1), two leaders of major Minnesota business organizations advocated that strategy, claiming that the past decade of testing has improved results. I disagree. The data show clearly that testing our children to greatness has been a failed experiment.

And in another commentary, this one on public pension paranoia, Kim Crockett of the conservative Center of the American Experiment writes: “A tremor coming from California this week could have consequences in Minnesota — and certainly will for the nation. A federal bankruptcy judge signaled that pension obligations for the bankrupt city of Stockton could be part of the restructuring plan. California’s giant public employee retirement system had been arguing that pensions should be immune from cuts, while bondholders argued that it was unfair to reduce debt payments unless all municipal debts were on the table. No Minnesota cities are officially in bankruptcy. But soon we can expect to see signs of the enormous strain that pension obligations will impose on school districts, cities and the state. Ratings from agencies like Moody’s, which affect the costs of local government borrowing for schools, roads and bridges, are taking a hard look at pension obligations. … Like the private sector, which long ago moved away from unsustainable guaranteed pensions, the state should offer a portable defined contribution — or 401(k)/annuity — plan to address the retirement needs of today’s public employees.” Administered by who at what cost?

In the realm of distinctions without a meaningful difference, John Hinderaker at Power Line takes up the “gun expertise” argument in criticizing President Obama: “Today it turned out that Barack Obama, who has campaigned tirelessly for gun control legislation over the last several months, doesn’t know the first thing about firearms … this transcript of Obama’s speech at a fundraiser yesterday in San Francisco on the White House’s web site:

Now, over the next couple of months, we’ve got a couple of issues: gun control. (Applause.) I just came from Denver, where the issue of gun violence is something that has haunted families for way too long, and it is possible for us to create common-sense gun safety measures that respect the traditions of gun ownership in this country and hunters and sportsmen, but also make sure that we don’t have another 20 children in a classroom gunned down by a semiautomatic weapon — by a fully automatic weapon in that case, sadly.

“This is painfully elementary: all of the weapons that reportedly were used by Adam Lanza were semiautomatic. Possession of a fully automatic weapon requires a special license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. It has never been reported that Lanza’s mother had such a license or owned any fully automatic firearms. … No: Barack Obama is one more example of a gun-control advocate who has no idea what he is talking about. One of the reasons why the current gun control campaign has fallen so flat is, I think, that it has been apparent to many people that the gun control advocates are generally ignorant of the subject matter.” Fear of the gun-obsessed might be a better explanation for why the campaign has fallen so flat, politically.

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Comments (16)

  1. Submitted by Pat Berg on 04/05/2013 - 07:37 am.


    One of the few times these days I willingly agree with a Republican.

  2. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 04/05/2013 - 08:07 am.

    Nienow speaks for MANY Minnesotans

    He asks, “In whose world was this a good idea?”

    Answer: In the worlds of the Governor, the mayor of Minneapolis, the unions, the metro tribes, the DFL, the Minneapolis City Council, and some RHINOs. These are strange little worlds that few Minnesotans live in – or to put it better, whose operative VALUES are not shared by Minnesotans in general.

    That’s why they had to ram it down our throats, invalidate the city charter, torture state law, and have an army of lobbyists waiting in the wings throughout all the votes to threaten legislators after every “wrong” vote they made as they rushed this loathsome ripoff to passage.

    Of course, the people who want their tickets subsidized by the taxpayers to the tune of $70+ per, for 30 years, are all for corporate Wilfare, as the handout benefits them directly. THEY share the values of the groups named above.

    It all had to be rushed through, too, for exactly the reasons Nienow has pointed out – if the people found out that this thing was made of pixie dust, they wouldn’t have stood for it.

    Thank you, Sen. Nienow !! I watched the sessions where you tried to bring forth some common sense to the debate on the stadium bill, and it was obvious that the fix was in & you were being laughed off as someone howling at the moon.

    The Governor and the DFL hope the people will go back to sleep and this one will go away. Not a chance !!

    • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 04/07/2013 - 08:31 am.

      As usual there is a memory loss in this discussion

      Leaving out the power and support of the Chamber of Commerce and Business Partnership for the Vikings stadium is laughable; those groups have the money and lobbyists to get things done. (see TCF stadium, Target Center, Xcel Center, etc). They are also mostly Republicans.

      BTW, leave that great animal called the rhino out of the political commentary. It is RINO – republicans in name only. In my opinion, the present Republican party has aleady severely damaged the reputation of another large animal. Enough

  3. Submitted by Robert Gauthier on 04/05/2013 - 08:39 am.

    Fairview U?

    I think you hit the nail on the head with the blocking maneuver. Right now there is no CEO for Fairview, no Dean for Medical School and several departments without chairs. You need leadership to run something. Running hospitals and nursing homes is not the Medical Schools mission, education is.

  4. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/05/2013 - 09:42 am.

    Fairview’s leadership vacuum is nothing new. Even when these positions are filled there’s no leadership. I worked at Fairview and University Fairview back in the early 90s and the problems on display today were just as prevalent then albeit not so visible. For instance, after wasting millions of dollars UF has just in the last year or so gone truly live with electronic charting. It’s not that they were late to the game, it just took them 15 years to get there. The trail of broken systems and false starts, and wasted money is amazing. The use of consultants was always rampant. Not only do the in-house executives and supervisors lack the knowledge and ability to function without consultants, they frequently disregard the consultants direction after paying millions of dollars for their advice. Things got worse after I left. About two years ago or so Fairview jumped on the ROI bandwagon (Results Oriented somthing or another) whereby non-patient care personnel no longer have regular work hours as long as they get their work done. It’s kind of a telecommute hybrid idea. Predictably it’s become a meets minimum standards at best work environment that’s seriously reduced productivity and magnified management shortcomings.

    I don’t think the for-profit take-over is the solution, for profit health care systems have a record of producing inferior health care compared to not for profit systems. We have the expertise here in MN to run hospitals well, we just have to figure out how to get that expertise into Fairview. I think it would be better if the State took it over and brought in people from Mayo and Hennepin County. This University gambit could work as a form of State takeover. Not long ago the University did run it’s own hospital.

    • Submitted by Robert Gauthier on 04/05/2013 - 12:25 pm.

      I agree

      With some of the points. I was at Fairview also, had a front table seat at the merger,actually, and had some input into the formation of UMP before it started. The reality is the U did not need to sell and they got snookered- they panicked. Then Fairview stripped the resources and kept everything to prop up their system.

      The market has changed, unfortunately, since that merger. Fairview is losing money and has no leadership. The U hospital is profitable and props up the system. Fairview uses the residencies to provide call coverage at below market rates, unlike they do at their other hospitals. UMP gets no facility fees from their cases- they had a surgery center but it was a dismal failure. The money is in these facility charges and this would help support the academic mission- because it is underfunded from the state, has been for years.

      Sanford is still the best solution, but not an open embrace. The arguments i have seen mix all the parties into one camp- there are three separate entities to consider there: The Medical School, UMP and the hospital. The Med School and UMP need to have a working partnership with the hospital, which they do not now. Sanford is not asking to take over UMP and the Medical School and we should not allow it. Instead, any deal should drive a requisite partnership that allows risk sharing and profit sharing from joint operations to the Med School and UMP. The plan to make a U of Pittsburg model is false, that hospital always made money, this deal has none and has not historically. The medical market in this town is much more competitve and has thinner profit margins. With ACA kicking in, those profits get even thinner.

      The best way to do a deal with a poor hand is to play the cards to get support at a fair market price and fair access to markets. Sanford halted the draining of cases from Bemidji to Fargo, which had drained the hospital for years, by making their budget stand on its own. We should demand a carve out of the deal at the main U campuses and maybe the Maple Grove and Southdale sites, where UMP already supplies coverage, and make Sanford pay a fair market value. (they get the Medicare payment for the resident if they take over) for services. They do it elsewhere, why not do it at the U?

      And there should be no reason the U campus should lose money in a deal like this because of the nature of the patients- they arrive pre-approved for insurance care because of the nature of their illnesses.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/09/2013 - 02:05 pm.

        I’m having a hard time trusting Sanford, and it’s funny

        First, during the merge at Fairview all we heard was that WE were saving the U. I just heard it again over the weekend. All I knew at the time from previous experience was that whatever we were hearing from Fairview management was not true, I don’t think they ever told the truth. By the way, this business of “losing money” is always dodgy. We were told for years that we could not get raises because the hospital was losing money. Problem is we got annual statements that showed profits every year. When I brought this up at a management meeting the response was to stop sending out the annual statements… ha! As long as I can remember Fairview claimed to be losing money. One way they would do it would be to claim they were only collecting 42 cents for every dollar billed. What they weren’t telling anyone is that they were charging 400%+ more than cost for everything so even at 42 cents they were making money. We know that with the exception of one year, health care and energy were the only markets to grow during the recession, and we know they grew in MN, and we know Fairview is the largest or 2nd largest provider. I seriously doubt that they’re actually losing money, something else is going on. What could be going on I don’t know, but don’t trust what Fairview tells you.

        I have trouble trusting Sanford. For one thing they don’t look like a great health care system. They have no national rating of excellence in any field of care (whereas the U has 11, and Mayo 14). They rated 2nd in a state with two hospital systems. And they don’t even pop-up if you try to check their stats with the American Hospital Association. Probably because they’re for profit. They have some higher than average patient satisfaction numbers but that’s a dodgy measurement, especially if patients have nothing to compare it to. I know hospital metrics are a tricky games but if better management is all Sanford can offer UF can get that over the Carlson School of Management can’t they? Don’t panic again, look what happened last time.

  5. Submitted by James Hamilton on 04/05/2013 - 10:25 am.

    The world has gone mad today

    and good’s bad today.

    We won’t have the money to pay for the stately pleasure dome but want to go ahead an build it in the mystical beleif that the gamblers will come. President Kaler wants to become Minnesota’s 21st century empire builder and move the U of M into statewide health care. We spend weeks of each school year teaching to the test and then testing our students, measuring only how successful our cram courses have been.

    When exactly did the inmates take over the institution?

  6. Submitted by Peter Doughty on 04/05/2013 - 10:38 am.

    A bit less partisan, please

    Let’s hold to the fire those feet whose butts were in the seats voting in favor of this unraveling travesty.


  7. Submitted by David Fehlan on 04/05/2013 - 11:49 am.

    Bipartisan, yes, but not possible without DFL majority votes

    RHINO legislators who led the charge: Senjem, Rosen, Manning, Zellers. (I know Zellers voted NO but he was a closet supporter and could have forced a doubtful vote on a Friday. Instead, he gave Dayton a golden opportunity to rally the mob at the M.O.A. over a weekend)

    Mpls area DFL legislators who supported the Wilfare/Union shakedown: Higgins, Kelash, Champion, Thissen. Also, Bakk, though not from Mpls, was a vocal supporter who crowed about this being a ‘free’ stadium for Minnesotans.

    Mpls mayor and seven council members (all DFL) that saddled city residents with an additional 25 years of a one-half percent sales tax to cover the stadium, the Target Center renovation and future Convention Center renovations. The lazy press often reports Mpls’ contribution as only $150 million to the stadium. Not so. The City’s own Ways & Means document from May 2012 shows over $1 BILLION in net present value dollars and over $2 billion in future value dollars going to these three projects between now and 2046.

    Most of this was done behind closed doors and it was only possible because enough DFL legislators provided the votes to override the City charter.

  8. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 04/05/2013 - 11:57 am.

    Butt fire-holding

    No thanks on the holding of the butts (ewww…), but I’ll be voting against the retention in office of those who voted in favor of what several have correctly identified as a stadium “travesty.” My own state representative was among those smart enough and courageous enough to vote ‘No.’

    Brian has nailed it regarding Mr. Hinderaker’s commentary. Quibbling over whether a Bushmaster is full-auto or semi-auto makes for a nice, theoretical discussion of the fine points of firearms law and construction, and of course, completely misses the point that Obama was making. I look forward to Mr. Hinderaker undertaking such a conversation with Newtown parents. I doubt he has the courage to do so. “See, Johnny wasn’t killed by an automatic rifle, it was merely a semiautomatic rifle. Don’t you feel better now?”

    Kim Crockett is selling the usual privatization snake oil. A 401(k) turns its account-holder, willing or not, knowledgeable or not, into a Wall Street speculator. It’s the retirement fund equivalent of opening the gate and letting the toddler wander into the lion enclosure, and is unconscionable for that and several other reasons.

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 04/05/2013 - 02:05 pm.

      Re: retirement funding forced onto Wall Street

      I’ve often wondered the mechanics of how exactly this came to be (compulsory investment in Wall Street monetary vehicles). There certainly are (and were) other ways the funds could be handled – e.g., funding could be held in specialized bank accounts, so no direct or indirect purchase of stocks/bonds would have tied the account-holders to mutual funds and brokerages. Direct purchases of government bonds (local, state, federal) would be another. Were any alternatives proposed or considered, any at all ?

      Has anyone ever calculated just how much money flowed to Wall Street due to these requirements ? It must be a staggering figure.

  9. Submitted by james anderson on 04/05/2013 - 12:08 pm.

    Stadium funding

    Perhaps sanity is breaking out at the legisiture.

  10. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/10/2013 - 08:53 am.

    All those council people from MPLS

    Minnpost actually did a series asking all of them what their stand was on the stadium. It was amazing to watch them line up one after the other behind bogus economic promises. MPLS cannot afford it’s share of the stadium debt. Beyond muttering something about projected growth and surplus convention center money they NEVER explained where they were going to get $15 million a year. Nor did any of these people seem to realize that they were NOT creating jobs for people who actually live in MPLS. Don Samuel’s was the worse, this stadium will do absolutely nothing for his district, and to the extent that it sucks money out of the city budget his constituents probably stand to get hurt the most.

    Crony capitalism is never pretty, but in a recession it’s downright ugly.

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