Grass-roots effort opposes sales tax for stadium

  • Article by: KEVIN DUCHSCHERE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 18, 2011 - 10:16 AM

The group meets Tuesday to discuss a petition drive to give voters a chance to weigh in on the county's financial piece.

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The proposed Vikings Stadium site at Arden Hills.

Photo: Minnesota Vikings

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An assortment of elected leaders, professionals and stadium opponents said Monday that they're organizing a petition drive to prevent the county from imposing a sales tax to pay for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium in Arden Hills.

"We want to send a strong message to the governor and the Legislature that we are not supportive of this, no matter what our elected representatives are doing," said Shoreview City Council Member Ady Wickstrom, a lead organizer.

The ad hoc group came together since last week, when the Ramsey County Charter Commission rejected a referendum on the proposed sales tax.

The group plans to meet Tuesday to decide how to go about putting the sales tax on next year's ballot. To do so, the group need to collect thousands of signatures from Ramsey County registered voters.

If the group opts to seek a charter amendment mandating a sales tax referendum, it will need to gather 14,874 signatures; if it wants to pass an ordinance, it will have to get 27,817 names. Both figures are based on county voting numbers in recent elections. What's unclear is whether the group must get the signatures within a prescribed time frame. The county website says it has 90 days, but county elections director Joe Mansky said that provision isn't in the county charter.

Wickstrom said she is certain the group can get the signatures in time.

Ramsey County's plan to build the $1.1 billion stadium, spearheaded by a couple of county commissioners, would require a $350 million contribution from the county paid with a half-percent sales tax. The Charter Commission last week turned down a proposed referendum on the sales tax, saying it had no authority over policy matters.

Andy Cilek, president of the Minnesota Voters Alliance, will be at Tuesday's meeting. He's neutral on the stadium, he said, but he believes the Charter Commission erred. "The amount of interest I've seen is far more than I anticipated," he said.

Another participant will be Tom Goldstein, an attorney and former St. Paul school board member. "The Vikings have $400 million to put in this project. Why can't they build it themselves?" he said. "At what point do we say we can't afford this?"

Wickstrom said she's found that most people either oppose the sales tax or the Arden Hills location for the stadium. She recently joined the rest of the Shoreview City Council in approving a resolution against the proposed stadium sales tax.

Kevin Duchschere • 612-673-4455

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