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Mpls. city attorney: No stadium referendum needed

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: May 22, 2012 - 10:41 AM

Minneapolis' City Attorney Susan Segal has put in writing her argument why the city does not have to hold a referendum on the Vikings stadium, despite a requirement in the city's charter.

Segal's formal opinion is moot in some senses, since the final stadium legislation includes a provision to override the city's charter. But Segal said she wrote it as though that provision was not included.

She has also asked a private attorney, Charles Nauen, to review her work.

The referendum requirement has long been the glue holding together stadium opponents on the Minneapolis City Council. The provision, which was overwhelmingly approved by voters in 1997, says Minneapolis must hold a citywide vote when it spends more than $10 million on a professional sports facility.

In her opinion, Segal argues that the relevant suite of stadium taxes -- citywide sales tax, downtown restaurant and liquor taxes, and a hotel tax -- are not a "city resource" since the city cannot control the revenues. Others, like state Rep. Diane Loeffler and Council Member Gary Schiff, dispute that assertion.

Here is the key paragraph in Segal's opinion (emphasis mine). Full PDF of the opinion is below.

By its terms, this section of the Charter prohibits the city from using 'city resources' in excess of $10 million 'for the financing of professional sports facilities' unless the expenditure is approved in a voter referendum. This section of the Charter is only applicable if the city uses 'city resources' to 'finance' a professional sports facility. The term 'city resource' presupposes that the city has authority or control over the revenues, in this case, that portion fo the local taxes designated by the legislature for stadium funding. These funds, however, will never enter the City treasury nor can the city alter the use or purpose of these revenues other than as prescribed in the 1986 local taxes law, as amended. The State has exercised its constitutional power to designate the purpose of these revenues -- to reimburse the state for a portion of the stadium funding and the city is without power to revise the stadium financing provisions.

Stadium Opinion

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