As they considered the Vikings stadium deal last week, Minneapolis City Council members could look out at an audience of workers wearing reflective construction jackets and fans clad in purple and horns.Roper even detected a hint of astroturf not associated with the Metrodome:
What was missing: a crowd of citizens angry about the city spending hundreds of millions on a stadium without holding a referendum.
Although the issue deeply divided the council and city voters, progressive activists that propelled a stadium referendum requirement into the city charter 15 years ago were largely absent when the provision faced its first real test. Even signs that occasionally appeared at forums and hearings, "Stop Stadium Taxes," were recycled from an earlier stadium push in Anoka County.I wasn't aware of a requirement to print new signs, but we'll leave that aside. Roper offers two views:
Dave Bicking, a progressive activist who has run for council, theorized outside the council chambers after the final vote that anti-stadium activists are disillusioned by many local decisions that have ignored public opinion.
"People are disgusted," Bicking said. "They aren't ready to show up. I'm discouraged from that standpoint. I'd like to see 1,000 angry people here. But I also understand where they're coming from."
Another City Hall regular who has run for council, Michael Katch, interjected with similar sentiments. "The term 'You can't fight City Hall'... I think they pretty much have accepted that as a reality," Katch said.
A few thoughts:
- Katch is correct -- you couldn't fight City Hall in this instance. Once Sandra Colvin Roy flipped her vote, the thing was going to roll regardless of what the long-term effect is going to be.
- Opposition to the plan came from both the political left and the right, of course. In Minneapolis, the right is not a factor in any event. Because of the composition of the political left, there wasn't much chance of consensus forming. The labor unions have a lot of power and the trades really wanted this project.
- While there are a variety of reasons why the stadium should not be built, the primary problem is how shaky the financing is. People won't really begin to understand that until after the thing is built and the bills start to come due. By then, many of the people who made this decision will be gone anyway.
- In the end, passing a resolution is not a substitute for governing. The reason the 1997 city charter change was a dead letter is simple: it became easy to see that circumventing it would not have a high enough political price. Perhaps some of the council members who voted yes to the stadium will be defeated in the next round of elections, but I doubt that will happen.
- Sometimes you lose.