Minneapolis Mayor calls McGuire’s soccer pitch ‘extraordinary’

Bill McGuire
Minnesota United
Bill McGuire

Okay, Mayor. You are on the record. Erin Golden of the Strib tells us, “Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges doubled down Wednesday on her rejection of a plan to provide tax breaks for a new professional soccer stadium, calling the request from the team’s owner unprecedented and ‘extraordinary.’ … Hodges dismissed [Bill] McGuire’s suggestion that the plan includes ‘no public subsidy whatsoever,’ and said she and other city leaders have not been provided with enough information to assess the full cost of the project to taxpayers.” I don’t know about either the “unprecedented” or “extraordinary” parts.

Please, can we finally put this story out of its misery? Mike Tighe of the LaCrosse Tribune reports, “Wisconsin and Minnesota revenuers could be close to settling a feud and making tax time easier for workers who cross state lines to get to their jobs. Caught in the crossfire are the workers forced to file income tax forms in both states since 2009, when Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty canceled the tax reciprocity agreement the two states had for 41 years.”

This one, too, would be a step in the right direction. The AP says, “Republicans are bringing Democrats back to the mat to save a public health care program for tens of thousands of low-income Minnesota residents as they seek to build up $2 billion in tax relief through cuts and cost savings. GOP lawmaker’s efforts to abolish MinnesotaCare by 2016 has triggered echoes of 2005, when a GOP-led attempt to reduce enrollment — and Democrats’ refusal — played a major factor in a government shutdown. Expected to be unveiled later this week, abolishing MinnesotaCare will likely be the centerpiece of Republicans’ budget bill for health and human services as they try to push those 90,000-some enrollees to buy private coverage through the health insurance exchange.”

Also in the GOP’s sights … Michele Kelm-Helgen. Says Mike Kaszuba for the Strib, “House Republicans are taking aim at Michele Kelm-Helgen, Gov. Mark Dayton’s appointment to chair the public body overseeing the building of the new Minnesota Vikings stadium. The Republican-controlled House State Government Finance Committee unveiled a budget late Tuesday that would eliminate Kelm-Helgen’s salary, barely two weeks after questions arose over whether her role was overlapping that of Ted Mondale, the executive director of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Authority.”

Let the objections and obstacle-building begin. Stribber Beena Raghavendran says, “President Barack Obama nominated Justice Wilhelmina Marie Wright to serve on the U.S. District Court for Minnesota Wednesday. … Wright is the first African American woman to serve on the State Supreme Court, and would be the second black federal judge.” Is there a Benghazi angle to play?

Code Red … flag. The AP says, “Gov. Mark Dayton is authorizing the Minnesota National Guard to help fight wildfires in the state. … In his order, Dayton notes that the center was fighting more than 35 wildfires on Wednesday. The National Weather Service has issued red flag fire warnings for all of Minnesota, due to dry conditions, high temperatures, low humidity and strong winds.”

Apparently that NFL pension wasn’t cutting it. The WCCO-TV story on ex-Viking Stu Voight’s legal problem says, “Two Minnesota men, including a former Minnesota Vikings tight end, are charged with running a Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors out of millions of dollars. The U.S. Attorney’s office says 66-year-old Stu Voigt and 61-year-old Jeffery Gardner face several criminal charges in connection to a real estate scheme between 2005 and 2007. The complaint says Voigt and Gardner raised money from private investors in connection with Gardner’s business, Hennessey Financial, LLC, promising returns of 10 to 20 percent annually. But the duo is accused of using the funds instead to repay previous investors and pay off Gardner’s debts from his other companies.”

Our fine neighbors … still struggling with this 21st century thing. At Midwest Energy News, Kari Lyderson writes, “Utility rate cases have become a major battleground over the future of distributed solar generation and the evolving structure of the nation’s electricity system. In the Midwest, Wisconsin has been ground zero, with state regulators last year approving three rate cases that made solar much less viable through several mechanisms, including a drastic increase in the fixed monthly charges for all ratepayers, regardless of how much electricity they use. … Across the country utilities have been requesting fixed rate increases and other changes that make solar installations less viable. Renewable energy advocates say the utilities are trying to protect the traditional model revolving around large centralized power plants and limited distributed generation.” Hmmm. Now do we know anyone in Wisconsin who has important friends in the fossil fuel industry?

Didn’t a recent president declare these things a major cause of pollution? At MPR, Elizabeth Dunbar says, “The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is asking the Legislature for another $4 million in the next two years to manage the state’s forests. The DNR oversees the harvesting of roughly 40,000 acres of forest every year on state lands. The additional money will help the DNR better deal with invasive species, diseases, climate change and other threats to the forest, said DNR forestry director Forrest Boe.”

City Pages’ “Best of” issue is out, with the usual gushing over eating and shopping. But on the, uh, relationship side we have this: “Best Place to Meet Single Men (Straight) Minneapolis … (Sneaky Pete’s). … Thursday’s Kill the Keg special of $5 bottomless Miller High Life taps and one of the Twin Cities’ longest happy hours make this boys’ bar a low-key night out for any sports fan looking to drink and curse at a TV. Bartenders are attractive, and the older gents are unafraid to try their hand at the stripper poles. The club stays open till 2 a.m. and attracts a more authentic crowd of ladies than other downtown bars that pressure them to squeeze into catsuit Spanx and six-inch heels just to get a nod through the door. It’s probably not the best place to meet a future husband, but the guys are available, and often single.”

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Comments (17)

  1. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 04/16/2015 - 08:10 am.

    The mayor is full of it…

    It being chutzpah and hypocrisy. The money she threw at the Vikings against the wishes of her constituents is a haystack compared to this needle of a request. I don’t support stadium subsidies of any kind but I don’t support hypocrites either. And McGuire saying there is no request for a public subsidy is also a lie. Maybe the Urban League should become part owners in the stadium with a promise to help Minneapolis high school dropouts become professional soccer players.

    • Submitted by Jim Camery on 04/16/2015 - 09:18 am.


      It was her predecessor RT who did the Vikings deal. What I think she’s doing is just showing some decent negotiating skill (which Kriesel, Garafolo, Dayton and Rybek) didn’t). Keep saying no and never until a week or so before the July 1 deadline, then see what the deal looks like. The first offer is the worst offer.

      • Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 04/16/2015 - 12:49 pm.

        I stand corrected

        but my next question is, was she a council member and if so, how did she vote? Where’s Rybak, vacationing in his New York condo provided by Zigy?

      • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 04/16/2015 - 01:48 pm.

        Hodges opposed the Vikings stadium, but supported the Target Center subsidy to the billionaire owner of the Timberwolves. Her claim that she opposes public subsides is nonsense and her statement is pure hypocrisy.

  2. Submitted by Dimitri Drekonja on 04/16/2015 - 08:55 am.

    If memory serves, Ryback was the Minneapolis champion of the stadium, and he delivered a 7-6 vote in favor of the final plan; then council-member Hodges was one of the 6 no votes.

    But, yes, nothing in here is unprecedented. Hopefully, given that McGuire has enriched himself with huge compensation that came from health insurance premiums (wouldn’t it be nice if healthcare dollars actually paid for healthcare), and his personal wealth is so well known locally, this pitch for a few extra million will go nowhere.

    Finally, the soccer scarf look is a stretch even on teenagers and 20-something fans; it doesn’t go with the pinstripe suit and pricey tie…

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 04/16/2015 - 09:22 am.

      When the owners are 3 of the wealthiest people in Minnesota,…

      …OF COURSE the soccer franchisees are begging for a public handout !!

      We’re sure as heck not going to give money to people who NEED it, or purely for the public interest. We’re no fools here in Minnesota !! Are we ??

      Did Opat go to represent these franchise owners on the public dime ??

      • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 04/16/2015 - 01:45 pm.

        Yes, we are fools

        We always give out money to wealthy sports owners. $50 million of public money went to an independent minor league baseball team. Minnesotans are terrible suckers for this.

        The difference with the soccer stadium is that the billionaire owners are looking for a lot less than other team owners. They are not asking for any actual money – just for tax relief for taxes that would not be generated at all if the team wasn’t here. None of the other teams pay property taxes because their stadiums are publicly funded and owned. Minnesota United gets punished with property taxes because they actually are paying for their own stadium.

  3. Submitted by Dan Landherr on 04/16/2015 - 08:57 am.

    Tax receipts for MLS

    A typical MLS payroll is $4M for the players. That doesn’t include support staff and is likely to rise. That’s $400,000+ in state income taxes that won’t be in the coffers without MLS. People pay for MLS with their cable bill more than their discretionary entertainment spending that would otherwise be spent elsewhere. There is certainly money available for a small subsidy.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/16/2015 - 09:26 am.

      A small subsidy

      There is a principle here (or there should be). The city should not be giving any subsidy, however small, to a sports franchise. The fact that it was done for the Vikings does not make even a small subsidy for soccer any more palatable.

  4. Submitted by Ralf Wyman on 04/16/2015 - 10:13 am.

    Another GOP budget fight

    So, we have a growing economy and a budget surplus, if you are the GOP in MN, it’s a perfect time to kick the poor. And to set the stage for a possible budget-based shutdown. I just cannot believe this is what greater MN voters had envisioned when they voted in a GOP House.
    Minnesota does not need to be following the path of maximum confrontation that Republicans have engineered in D.C. and quite a few states. But it will take voters letting the GOP know in no uncertain terms that we expect something different here: we expect sensible, middle-ground policies and an effort to compromise. Otherwise I think the GOP majority in the House will be very short lived.

  5. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/16/2015 - 10:44 am.

    Meanwhile about that Vikings subsidy…

    Remember when Dayton et al PROMISED with their hands to God that none of that money would come out of the general fund? Then the e-tab scheme failed to provide a single dollar and ALL of the money for the subsidy ended up coming out of the general fund? That’s about $35 million a year coming out of the general fund. And again we’re talking about health care and food stamps while financing welfare for an out of state billionaire. Man I wish someone would have pointed all of this out BEFORE we signed the stadium deal. Oh, that’s right…

  6. Submitted by Paul Rider on 04/16/2015 - 11:38 am.

    Gimme a break!

    We’ve been subsidizing private corporations for a long time. And don’t even try to convince us that a stadium bill for the Vikes and Twins makes that a public venture and therefore subject to huge property tax breaks, but that MNUFC is a private corporation and therefore shouldn’t get the same kind of tax break! I am not in favor of public subsidy for any private enterprise, including sports organizations. And even as a season ticket holder for MNUFC I stand by that. But a tax break is not the same as a handout to build something. McGuire and co. are putting up the whole price for building and managing the club and stadium. What did the Wilfs do? Ask for $500M of public funds that will all go into their pockets while the public receives no benefit. And get property tax relief as well? So, gimme a break. A measly couple mil won’t break anyone!

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/16/2015 - 12:25 pm.

      Won’t break anyone?

      As the late Everett Dirksen may have put it, a measly couple mil here, a measly couple mil there, pretty soon, you’re talking real money.

      There are too many unanswered questions here. Are they really just asking for tax breaks? What kind of tax breaks? How much? For how long?

      The mere fact that Wilf & Co. managed to swindle the taxpayers of Minneapolis out of much more money does not make the MNUFC request any more palatable.

      • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 04/16/2015 - 01:52 pm.

        Not real money

        They are asking for breaks on taxes that would not be generated in the first place if the team wasn’t here.

        None of the other teams pay property taxes, because their stadiums were publicly funded. MNUFC is paying for their own stadium, and as a result will get punished with taxes other teams don’t pay. They just want a level playing field, and we should give it to them, especially because they are not asking for public money to build.

  7. Submitted by Dimitri Drekonja on 04/16/2015 - 12:14 pm.

    Tax break, handout, call it what you will. If it lowers the owners costs, who cares what it is called? As far as the argument that “we’re giving this guy way less than we gave the last guy,” it seems to skip the basic question of: why do very wealthy sports owners need any subsidy?

  8. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 04/16/2015 - 03:28 pm.

    The other stadiums pay no property tax because the property belongs to the public, not the team. The Vikings will pay no property taxes on the new stadium which does not belong to them, but to us. Big difference here: the land and the structure for the soccer stadium will belong to these billionaires, not to the public.

    And, a tax expense to a city or a county is, indeed, a subsidy to the private entity that would not have to pay it. Currently, the land where McGuire, et alia want to put their stadium generates about $350,000 in property taxes annually. Take that away from Minneapolis and Hennepin County, and you have a loss of service to all of us in both city and county. Then, consider that the market value of the property will be much higher with a new stadium on it, and you’re talking a real tax subsidy that damages both city and county. So, no: do not play games with the fact that a tax exemption is a public subsidy of major sort. A perpetual tax exemption, too! (a gift that Minneapolis would continue to give into the 22nd century)

    Credit the mayor for being able to see that the soccer barons paying a huge amount to get the soccer franchise cannot be included in the cost of the stadium! The stadium costs are $150 million or so. The $100 million they pay major league soccer to have a team here is a business expense for them, but it’s not part of the cost of the stadium. So, we are not talking “a $250 million” stadium. That’s gobbledegook meant to minimize the public subsidy they’re asking for.

    Plus: Mayor Hodges is reflecting the opinion of actual Minneapolis taxpayers and voters when she expresses her astonishment at the request for further public subsidy for pro sport corporations. Many people have made their anti-stadium views known to her. That gets drowned in all the pro- pro sports prose we get from the Star Tribune (whose owner wants this public subsidy for his soccer stadium). She’s a politician who got elected on the basis of other priorities we have, not more sports venues with public money.

  9. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 04/16/2015 - 08:02 pm.

    False argument

    The distinction between stadiums publicly and privately owned is really immaterial. Having the stadiums belong to the public just exempts the teams from paying property taxes. The stadiums themselves and the revenue from them are controlled by the teams. The Target Center was initially privately-owned, and eventually became publicly-owned in part because of the property taxes. I expect that the soccer stadium will ultimately become publicly owned for the same reason. It’s only considered privately-owned because unlike every other team, Minnesota United did not ask for a subsidy for actual construction. They only want they same tax treatment as the other teams. The idea that private ownership of the soccer stadium (for now) creates a meaningful distinction is a false argument.

    Betsy Hodges had no problem subsidizing the billionaire owner of the Timberwolves in paying for Target Center upgrades. To claim she opposes subsidies makes her a hypocrite the likes of which Minnesota politics has not seen in a long time.

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