The City of Minneapolis is preparing for the elections of 2013. It will, in all probability, be a very contentious election, with a three-term mayor on the political ropes. The key factor that will influence candidates to run and determine how citizens will vote centers on developing intended and unintended consequences of the Vikings stadium funding, which in turn centers on four areas:
1. How the mayor deliberately and knowingly violated the City charter by refusing to let voters decide on any stadium bill over $10 million (the mayor being quite comfortable with having the City absorb the stadium debt);
2. How the actual numbers, with interest, are nearly 10 times the original projection for the City’s costs;
3. How neither the City nor the State have the funds to meet their stadium commitments; and
4. What taxes the candidates will declare in their campaigns as on and off limits to meet the City’s and the State’s commitments.
First, let’s look at the potential candidates and then key facts they will have to contend with. Names being discussed include current Mayor R.T. Rybak, Ward 13 Council Member Betsy Hodges, Ward 8 Council Member Elizabeth Glidden, Ward 9 Council Member Gary Schiff, former mayoral challenger Alfred Flowers, former speaker of the House Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Minneapolis’ school board representative Hussein Sametar, and former city council president Jackie Cherryhomes. The City’s endorsement convention, in early 2013, should be as hot as the great Chicago Fire.
Next, let’s look at key facts that will significantly impact on the election races:
• The Kaplan report, made before the council voted on stadium funding, stated the City would be nearly $50 million short of its $150 million commitment for a Vikings stadium. The report clearly spelled out that there were inconsistencies in the mayor’s and his supporters’ statements that the City of Minneapolis could meet its commitment to Vikings stadium funding.
• Eight months ago, Mayor R.T. Rybak dismissed and violated the importance and sanctity of the City Charter, and said if voters didn’t like it they could vote him out of office.
• Stadium cost when capital and operations over 30 years are added to the original $150 million: $338 million
• Councilmember Gary Schiff’s projected Minneapolis cost (KSTP, May 13, 2012): $675 million.
• The City’s actual stadium cost (Star Tribune, May 1, 2012) $890 million
• Cost estimate in my May 2012 column taken from Star Tribune stories: $1.170 billion over the next 30 years
• Minnesota has just reported it has a $1.1 billion fiscal shortfall
• The State has mis-projected the revenue from electronic pull tabs the State said would cover its funding commitment for the stadium (only 85 of 6,000 bars have electronic pull tabs). The faulty projections reflect what we have said before: Minnesotans are neither enthusiastic about the revenue being projected nor about their anticipated and expected involvement in raising that revenue.
These represent political albatrosses that are millstones around the necks of legislators and council members who voted for the stadium. This means that all the contenders and pretenders for the 2013 elections for the offices of mayor and city council members are going to have to explain not only their roles in the added debt being imposed on the voters of the city of Minneapolis, but also what new taxes they will have to impose for Minneapolis to pay its “fair share” of the Peoples’ “no new taxes” stadium.
Voters should ask in 2013 for specifics about projection assumptions, and of what other revenue generators they will propose for meeting the City’s stadium payment obligations.
Of course, Election 2013 will have other important issues, such as education, jobs, public safety, affordable housing, and those projects such as the downtown casino, which apparently has hit a dead end while Block E continues to die its slow and agonizing death.
So get ready, Minneapolis, for Election 2013. For the incumbent mayor, this could be an anxious political run, particularly if the Obama administration decides not to beckon him to join the administration. That means he’ll have to fight vigorously if he is to sustain continued employment as mayor of Minneapolis.
It also means that the previously identified contenders and pretenders will have to shape their arguments regarding their plans for a new vision for a new Minneapolis and their plans for paying for it. The City must have a plan to guarantee an economy that will generate jobs and tax revenue if Minneapolis is to survive in the future.
Finally, how do those who are opposing growth plan to avoid having Minneapolis become like Detroit?
Ron Edwards hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm, and hosts Blog Talk Radio’s “Black Focus V” on Sundays, 3-3:30 pm and Thursdays, 7-8:30 pm, providing coverage about Black Minnesota. Order his books at www.BeaconOnTheHill.com. Hear his readings and read his columns, blog, and solution papers for community planning and development, at www.TheMinneapolisStory.com. Columns are archived at www.theminneap olisstory.com/tocarchives.htm.