Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Vikings to Arden Hills? XIV -- The Beauty of Appointed Bodies

So did you want a referendum on a proposed Vikings stadium in Arden Hills? Tough luck, pal:

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."

More soon.


Richard "Rick" Moses said...

As a Charter Commission member, I'd like to offer the following insights:

First, the vote of 10-6 would have been 9-7 if Rod Halverson was able to vote for his own amendment. He had to vote "No" in order to bring it up again later. This issue has not gone away.

Each member of the Charter Commission should have looked upon the issue as a matter of right or wrong. It's just dead wrong to have a half-cent sales tax imposed on the county citizens, fans and non-fans alike, for the benefit of a private and wealthy organization. The vast majority of speakers said so.

The amendment was a safety valve for those citizens who understood that the County Commissioners were out of control and bypassing the will of the people. Such an amendment is perfectly legal and appropriate.

In this case we have a renegade Commissioner who made a deal with the Vikings, and does not care if he's held accountable or not. He is of an age where he has openly boasted how many government pensions pensions he's drawing from. Hence the people need a counterbalance, the Charter Commission is it. We were not appointed to sit on our hands, stand idly by while the Charter and the people are trampled by special interests and a careless elected politician.

Why did more Charter Commission members not vote for the amendment? Special and hidden agendas. But mostly a failure to spot right and wrong. A failure increasingly prevalent in our society and the cause of most our problems.

Brad Carlson said...

Because the Arden Hills plan is facing such unresolved issues as site clean-up and expansion of infrastructure, I now see an opening for the group advocating a Vikings stadium in Mpls. (that is if they can present a substantive plan). In fact, the 0.15% sales tax levied in Hennepin County to subsidize Target Field is bringing in more revenue than expected.

Just sayin'.....

Mr. D said...

Rick, thank you for your comments. I suspect you are correct and that the issue isn't going away.

Please correct me if I'm wrong about this, but there was some question concerning whether the Charter Commission had a legitimate role to play in this matter. You indicate that it did. You also bring up an important issue, the "renegade Commissioner." That would be Tony Bennett. He's worth a blog post or two on his own.

Brad, there might be an opening, but unless the city of Minneapolis can get around the parking issue, it's not gonna happen. The most logical place in HennCo for the stadium to have been built would have been in Brooklyn Center, on the site of the moribund Brookdale Shopping Center. But I believe that is no longer possible.

Gino said...

if i learned anything from five days in the twin cities is that there is lots of room to be found not too far from where you are, wherever 'where' is.

just mow down some corn and get it done already.