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Charter likely to remain a stadium hurdle

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: January 13, 2012 - 8:59 AM

Council president Barb Johnson said Thursday afternoon that she expects the Legislature will have to override a charter provision requiring the city to vote on a new Vikings stadium.

Johnson's comments jibe with Mayor R.T. Rybak, who says he still isn't sure whether the charter is legally applicable in this case.
 
The charter issue could be a central one in the stadium debate, since the Legislature has been resistant to thwarting local referendums. Several council members have also already expressed qualms with supporting a plan that sidesteps the city's charter.
 
“I think at this point barring some legal opinion where they say it doesn’t apply, I have to think it applies," Johnson said.
 
The charter amendment, authored by council member Gary Schiff in 1997, states that the city must hold a referendum if more than $10 million in city funds are spent on a stadium. It passed with 69 percent support in the 1997 elections.
 
The requirement was not addressed in the stadium plan Minneapolis presented to the governor Thursday. Both Rybak and Johnson said that wasn't necessary because legislators are already familiar with the issue.
 
Rybak said Thursday that while their plan funds a stadium, it also attempts to reduce property taxes and secure the Target Center and convention center in the long term. "That’s a much more complicated question and one that was never put to voters," Rybak said.
 
But he acknowledged that the charter requirement will be a hurdle. And if it does apply, he will ask the Legislature to override.
 
“It’s definitely a challenge," Rybak said. "But any way to solve this long-running controversial issue is going to require some tough actions.”
 
Council member Lisa Goodman found it odd that the charter issue wasn't addressed up front in the city's plan.
 
"It’s clear that their proposal puts $10 million-plus into the Vikings," Goodman said. "And it’s clear the charter says cumulatively you can’t without a vote of the public. So why don’t they just say now we’re asking the Legislature to go around that, so the public can hear that?”

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