On Tuesday night, more than 200 people jammed the Charter Commission hearing before it voted 10-6 against putting the issue on the 2012 ballot, deciding that doing so meant the appointed commission would be making policy and usurping the authority of elected county commissioners.
In formalizing the vote, commissioner Rod Halvorson proposed a charter amendment to go on the ballot that would have prohibited the county from using any revenues to help build a professional baseball or football stadium. "I think it's clear from the testimony that people would like to exercise their right to vote," he said during the debate.
He added that the charter amendment he was proposing would help prevent the Legislature from overriding the people's wishes, and arm the county for a possible constitutional challenge.
I'll admit this -- I've lived in Ramsey County since Mrs. D and I moved to Minnesota in 1992. I do pay attention to politics. And until this issue arose, I had never given any thought to the Ramsey County Charter Commission. I was dimly aware it existed, but that's it. It is refreshing to hear any governmental agency decide against taking power unto itself:
Chair Richard Sonterre said that for him, it wasn't a decision about taxes or a public-private partnership. It was a decision on the role of representative democracy. An appointed body like the charter commission, he said, shouldn't be challenging the authority of elected county leaders.Not all appointed bodies feel that way, however. From the same Star Tribune article:
The proposed Minnesota Vikings stadium tax won't face a public vote in Ramsey County, but a report to be released Wednesday by the Metropolitan Council raised new questions about the viability of the Arden Hills site.
The report says the price tag and time line for clean-up of the site -- a former munitions plant -- will be greater than expected and that a county sales tax plan to help finance it would "compromise the county's and the region's ability to finance other projects."
The nearly 200-page report also identified $39 million in unfunded costs for the proposed $1.1 billion publicly subsidized stadium.
The Met Council, as you may know, is an appointed body. Given the power that the Met Council wields, I'd personally love to have a chance to vote on its membership, but that's not happening. There's one other tidbit in the article that explains why so many Minnesota politicians love it, though:
The report was ordered by Gov. Mark Dayton after the Legislature, having spent five months this year wrestling with a large budget deficit, had little appetite for considering public subsidies for a new stadium. A brief state government shutdown in July further dampened enthusiasm for the project.Politicians love wielding power, but they hate accountability. Too often the Met Council is a deus ex machina that lets politicians duck tough decisions. It's the equivalent of a permanent "blue ribbon commission."