Legislature caught whistling in the dark — Financial problems for Viking stadium construction project



ThroughMyEyesnewFor years I have defined as ill-conceived any planning that mostly serves the planners and their agency/bosses and not those they plan for, that too often leave African Americans out of their equations, purposefully failing or refusing to meet both diversity and equity hiring requirements and appropriate funding or financing best practices regarding construction, education, housing, jobs and public safety.

I have long written about the perils of such ill-conceived planning regarding the Vikings stadium. The Star Tribune reminded us of these perils in articles last week, April 8 and 9, perils that could lead to a failed stadium project and loss of the Vikings to another city.

There is anxiety in the Minnesota legislature. Read from my over 25 columns on this gathered together in a solutions paper for the Vikings stadium situation, at www.theminneapolisstory.com/solutionpapers/47SaveVikings.htm.

As they used to say to Shoeless Joe Jackson, “Say it ain’t so, Joe. Say it ain’t so.” We are again reminded of legislative missteps in Star Tribune writer Jay Weiner’s 2000 book about Minnesota stadiums, Stadium Games. Say it ain’t so, state legislature and Minneapolis City Council! Say it ain’t so.

Both Democrats and Republicans alike admit they could be forced to suspend action regarding construction on the People’s Stadium until the January 2014 legislative session. A scenario with that delay could result in no Minnesota Vikings in existence to play in the Peoples Stadium, as this would delay the opening to Fall of 2017, which the Vikings have stated is unacceptable.

The Vikings are not locked in. They can leave for any city, including L.A. When NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell came to Minnesota in early 2012, he made it clear in meetings with Governor Mark Dayton and Republican and Democratic leaders of the legislature that if there is no new stadium deal, the Vikings are free to move.

Have you noticed there is no lease agreement signed by the Vikings regarding either the new stadium or to play here in 2013? However, because of the language of the NFL Constitution and the printing of the schedule for the upcoming season, the Vikings are past the 2013 last day for move announcements. But they can still play anywhere that will rent them a stadium for Sundays.

The Vikings, NFL and $477 million don’t have to stay in Minnesota. This is why the current situation in St. Paul has all of the characteristics of producing one of the most devastating collapses of an anticipated public-works project in the history of the state of Minnesota or of any professional athletic team. Stadium games indeed.

Given the fiscal problems, starting with increasing debt that is burdening Minnesota state government in terms of diminishing the quality of education, health care, and access to good housing, Minnesota is no longer financially stable. Come 2014, the new council and new legislature will be overwhelmed with what they will have to deal with if the current council and legislature don’t step up, which would automatically mean the only solution left: more types and amounts of taxes.

Clearly, our leadership needs to get really busy and really serious about quickly making a deal. As I’ve noted for a year, the financial plan was ill-conceived. The City of Minneapolis is not even close to having its $150 million portion, as laid out in the legislation.

Mayoral candidate Gary Shiff has calculated that it will actually cost nearly $800 million when interest is paid as well. In fact, the City of Minneapolis doesn’t have its $25M to join with the State’s $25M and the already-paid-in $50 million of the Vikings in order to guarantee the existence of the $100M construction trust fund.

It is no accident the Star Tribune articles only identified the State’s obligation. About the City’s obligation: Have you noticed? Practically zero discussion since Mayor R.T. Rybak announced he is bailing out as mayor of the City of Minneapolis. Nonetheless, a serious financial crisis looms.

The new Minneapolis City Council will be sworn in in January 2014, with five to nine new members. How will these political novices — a new mayor and new council members — deal with this $150 million of City money to save the future of the so-called Peoples’ Vikings Stadium?

The chairwoman of the Authority is quoted as saying things can be worked out during the 2014 legislative session. If so, will a year’s postponement trigger a Vikings move? The legislative session of 2014 will overwhelm the newly elected city council. Will they punt and raise taxes?

November 2014 is the legislative election for all state senators and representatives. How will angry or provoked voters vote? People need to carefully study Mark Kaplan’s report and Gary Schiff’s projection. When will officials learn to read and understand a spread sheet, including the small print about the assumptions used to generate the numbers for and about state and municipal bonds and other revenue streams?

Stay tuned.


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.theminneapolisstory.com/tocarchives.htm.


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