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Council majority opposes Rybak stadium plan without referendum

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: January 26, 2012 - 2:35 PM

A majority of the Minneapolis City Council now publicly opposes mayor R.T. Rybak's funding plan for a new Vikings stadium absent a citywide vote on the issue, yet the mayor still believes it can pass.

That was the highlight of an extended council hearing Thursday, which featured a more in-depth review of how the mayor and council president Barb Johnson plan to contribute more than $300 million to a stadium in Minneapolis. Part of that plan would involve the state overriding a Minneapolis charter requirement that voters have a say when the city spends more than $10 million on a stadium.

Six of the 13 members have already stated their opposition to the idea without a referendum. Council member Sandra Colvin Roy, whose opinion was previously unknown, said Thursday that she cannot support the proposed plan without a citywide vote.

She noted that the charter amendment, which passed overwhelmingly on the 1997 ballot, was an expression of the "will of the people."

"Looking across the street at Occupy Minnesota and thinking about what’s going on in our country right now, some of the discussions that are happening relative to government – can we trust them or not – I cannot countenance going around that referendum," Colvin Roy said.

In an interview following the hearing, Colvin Roy confirmed that she is opposed to the current plan if it does not include a referendum. She does not believe the 1997 vote meant that voters do not support public funding of stadiums, but rather that they want a say in the process.

"To me that referendum said 'Don't do it without our approval,'" Colvin Roy said. "And I think that is a message that gives the citizens of Minneapolis the opportunity to look at a stadium or sports facility question in the context of the economy and other things before them at the time."

Following the hearing, Rybak said "we're not going to do a referendum in the city. We are going to have a referendum in a couple years when I stand for re-election."

As for the seven council members now publicly opposed to his plan, Rybak did not believe their stances were that firm.

"I don’t think too many people are drawing exact lines yet. And so that’s a good thing," Rybak said.

(Photo by Glen Stubbe)

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