I followed the Vikings public subsidy legislation process fairly closely, and think that was a good example of how normally rational politicians can become irrational when threatened by the NFL. As we knew before the bill passed, and know even better now, there were a few problems with that bill such as:
- The percentage of state money put into the deal
- The percentage of city money put into the deal
- The complete lack of tapping into the fan base to limit public subsidies (merchandise tax, license plates, etc)
- Unlike when the Metrodome was built, asking nothing of the downtown businesses. Instead, letting Fortune 500 companies demand corporate entertainment subsidies.
- Removing valuable downtown land from the city’s property tax base, thus shifting an even greater percentage of the city’s tax burden to the city’s remaining property owners
- Violating the city’s charter which requires a referendum to spend more than $10 million on a professional sports venue.
- Exploiting gamblers to cover the state’s share of corporate welfare subsidies for the NFL
- The failure of gambling exploitation as a funding source
- Redirection of what would generally be general fund dollars (cigarette and unitary taxes) to subsidize the Wilf family
- Cutting a real estate deal on behalf of taxpayers with a group of individuals who were on trial for fraud, breach of contract, and racketeering (who’ve now lost that trial).
- Acting like subsidizing the NFL is a state emergency.
- Ignoring the fact that the Metrodome has a new roof and turf.
- Ignoring the fact that Vancouver refurbished their Metrodome-style stadium for less than half the cost of tearing down the stadium and rebuilding it from scratch, and did so during off-seasons. Can it host big events? It was used to host the opening and closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympics.
- Pretending that tearing down an existing stadium to build a larger one in its place is the best jobs bill we could imagine.
With that in mind, it’s been interesting to see how Minneapolis’ politically motivated folks have reacted.
For example, seven city council members voted to subsidize the NFL for the next 30 years over everything else that money could have been spent on. Of those seven, six ran for re-election to the city council and 3 failed, as incumbents, to win their party’s endorsements (Tuthill, Hofstede, and Colvin-Roy). Three were endorsed (Johnson, Reich, and Quincy) and have good shots at holding their seats. The 7th, Don Samuels, is running what I’d consider to be 3-4th place for mayor at this point (The StarTribune recently ran a poll that ranked Samuels higher, but doubt Samuels is really polling that high. I wouldn’t count him out, but I doubt he can pull enough votes from south of Lake Street [where a TON of Minneapolis residents vote] to win).
Two of the six city council members who voted against the stadium ran for mayor: Gary Schiff and Betsy Hodges. Schiff dropped after the caucus and threw his support behind the other fiscally responsible DFL candidate, Betsy Hodges. The four remaining opposition votes came from council members who’re running for reelection. Cam Gordon from the Green Party faces no DFL endorsed competition. Robert Lilligren lost the DFL endorsement after redistricting dramatically changed his ward. Elizabeth Glidden and Lisa Goodman face no opposition.
I’d say that city councilmembers who opposed the stadium came out on top. They were more likely to be DFL endorsed, faced fewer challengers, and are more likely to hold the elected positions they’ve sought after this fall’s election than those who committed 30 years of Minneapolis sales and property tax dollars to the NFL. Had Hodges, Schiff and Samuels decided to stay in the city council rather than run for mayor, I think it’s safe to assume that they’d have all been DFL endorsed and held their seats.
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