Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


One-time cigarette tax money bails out first stadium bonds

New stadium complications; name-calling over guns; Orchestra recordings postponed; Southwest LRT tunnel concerns; judge won’t dismiss videotaping case; and more.

Smokers have bailed out the gamblers who (so far have) failed the stadium. Tim Nelson of MPR reports: “The Minnesota Department of Revenue said today that it expects to collect about $30.5 million in “floor stock” new cigarette taxes. That’s the stamp charge on all the cigarettes sellers had on hand before a $1.60 per pack tax hike took effect on July 1. First the good news: there’s about $26.5 million there to top off the state’s reserve fund for the stadium debt. That’s the insurance fund that the state wrote off last year. It was supposed to serve as a year of backup debt service for stadium bonds if the electronic pulltabs didn’t pan out. They haven’t so far. Now, a fund is in place to assure bondholders that there’s about a year’s reserve, giving the Legislature time to go back in and tinker further if need be. The state missed on the one-time tobacco tax estimate, too. But not by much. Minnesota officials thought it would get about $32.4 million, with most of that earmarked for the reserve fund.”

Nelson also covered a presser by stadium opponents who still want a public vote …  “Two Twin Cities residents are challenging the deal with the Minnesota Vikings to build the ‘People’s Stadium’ in Minneapolis. Both say the stadium should have been put to a vote by taxpayers before the state and the city committed nearly half a billion dollars to the deal. ‘I want our public officials to follow the law,’ said Doug Mann. He’s a Minneapolis nurse, Green Party mayoral candidate and  school board challenger. He represented himself before a Hennepin County District Court judge [Tuesday] morning, saying the city should put the stadium issue up for a vote this fall. … All that said, there is another  legal challenge waiting in the wings. Paul Johnson, a retired railroad cop from Blaine, has filed suit against the state, saying voters in Minneapolis should weigh in.” Did either ever see “The Man of La Mancha”?

And here’s another stadium-related lawsuit. Janet Moore of the Strib writes: “A dispute over the land under the busy Downtown East light-rail stop is the latest messy complication to arise in the construction of the $975 million Vikings stadium. Property owner Minneapolis Venture LLC filed suit late Tuesday in Hennepin County District Court against the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, claiming that negotiations over the land next to the stadium site have been ‘perplexing and unproductive.’ The suit seeks clarity from a judge on whether the above-ground plaza and its coveted underground parking garage are part of the massive stadium’s reach. … Architectural renderings of the glassy sports facility depict the light-rail stop and a plaza on the property that Minneapolis Venture purchased from the city of Minneapolis in 2007, part of a $65 million deal that included five parking ramps. And the 455 parking stalls beneath the Downtown East plot are critical for the authority to control in order to meet a legislative mandate to provide 2,500 parking spots in proximity to the stadium.”

There’s been name-calling at the Capitol. Jim Ragsdale of the Strib reports: “The state’s leading supporter of ‘gun rights’ was called a ‘bully’ by a citizen on the other side of the issue. The gun supporter, Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, made disparaging remarks to WCCO-TV last week about Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-ST. Paul, and other supporters of limits on gun-carrying at the Capitol. The citizen, Gary Thompson of St. Paul, took exception to those statements and said so at a hearing of the Advisory Committee on Capitol Security on Tuesday. Cornish comments last week were: ‘It’s not the the gun owners of Minnesota’s fault if Representative Paymar and his colleagues feel they have to wet their pants every time they hear the word ‘gun’ or see one.’ At Tuesday’s hearing, Thompson said, ‘Representative Cornish is a bully … ‘ ” I like the quote marks around “gun rights.”

Article continues after advertisement

If you suspect there’s something else to Bemidji’s indignation over the farcical depiction of Paul Bunyan in MNsure’s ads than disrespect for a village elder, here’s Ed Morrissey on the conservative blog Hot Air: “What better way to explain the myth that ObamaCare will be just dandy for young adults than to use another well-known myth as its spokesman? Minnesota will spend $9 million to get 1.3 million Minnesotans into the exchanges, but many here are considering the Blue Ox to be quite the white elephant … We’ve covered the ways in which ObamaCare works as a wealth transfer from younger and poorer Americans to older and wealthier Americans by forcing them into comprehensive health-insurance policies and high premiums. That’s an irrational choice for those who don’t need to access anything more than a primary-care physician once or twice a year.” A master of insurance math, I gather.

Michael Cooper of the New York Times reports: “The bitter labor dispute that cost the Minnesota Orchestra its entire 2012-13 season has now forced the orchestra to postpone recording the next two symphonies in its critically acclaimed Sibelius cycle, orchestra officials said. The orchestra earned a Grammy nomination last year for its Bis recording of Sibelius’s Second and Fifth symphonies. The orchestra, and its Finnish music director, Osmo Vanska, had planned to record Sibelius’s Third and Sixth symphonies next month, with recording sessions scheduled for the week of Sept. 16.”

At MPR, Euan Kerr writes: “[Swedish recording company] Bis officials say they are withdrawing from the September sessions because they no longer believe the orchestra is ‘in good-enough shape’ to meet the exacting standards the label requires, according to a document obtained by MPR News. Orchestra President Michael Henson agrees with the Swedish label’s decision, and said he hopes the session can be rescheduled for the spring.”

The “tunnel option” for the Southwest LRT is taking a lot of hits. Brandt Williams of MPR says: “Some Minneapolis City Council members are skeptical of proposals to build tunnels through parts of the city for the Southwest Light Rail line. … At a council committee meeting today, council member Lisa Goodman told a Met Council staff member that she would like an independent assessment of the challenges of tunneling so close to two city lakes. ‘You’re essentially saying, ‘We’re working to understand it. We think we understand what might happen,’  Goodman said. ‘And it’s not incumbent on our staff to be doing an independent analysis. Their role is to look out for interest of the city — not the project.’ “

Your tax dollars hard at work … . Emily Gurnon of the PiPress says: “A judge has refused to throw out the case against a Little Canada man who was criminally charged after he videotaped the activities of a sheriff’s deputy and ambulance crew outside his apartment. Ramsey County District Judge Edward Wilson denied Andrew Joseph Henderson’s request to dismiss the misdemeanor charges against him. Henderson, 29, argued that he was exercising his First Amendment rights to record activities of public officials in a public place and that he didn’t break the law. He was charged with disorderly conduct and interfering with an ambulance crew. The judge ruled Monday that Henderson’s conduct ‘cannot be shielded under the cloak of the First Amendment.’ ”