Star Tribune column about my role at a Vikings hearing failed on many levels.
Jim Souhan's attention-grabbing April 18 column ("No point in dumbing down stadium issue") has generated much discussion -- even more since readers have learned elsewhere that I voted "yes" in a House committee to advance a Vikings stadium bill.
Citizens also have been interested to learn that, while quoting me, Souhan omitted key sentences that would have made my legislative intent clear.
It appears that Souhan neither attended the meeting about which he wrote, nor listened to the audio from it, nor reviewed the transcript before penning his column. He also did not contact me before taking great leaps in asserting what my thought process was.
The sad truth is that Souhan ended up with a column based on a false premise and filled with ignorance and distortion.
Early in the meeting to which Souhan referred, Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley took his place before our committee to testify. I considered what my constituents would want to ask if they were in my place and decided to pose a question I receive time and again in my district.
I said: "Mr. Bagley, just a question that is frequently out there -- you might as well answer it for the record: Why should the state of Minnesota contribute to a stadium for a billionaire who could pay for it all himself?"
This was presented respectfully, not in a hostile manner. My purpose was to frame the debate and not have the question linger in the background. It provided the Vikings with an opportunity to answer a common question.
Souhan used a partial quote to draw the conclusion that I am shallow and that my question was of a third-grade level. Apparently, many thousands of adult Minnesotans are likewise low in his esteem. I believe it is elitist and degrading to suggest that people who raise questions about who should pay for a nearly $1 billion project are "dumb."
The columnist then asserted that I had ignored all of the legitimate concerns about a stadium. If Souhan knew the contents of the discussion, his column contained outright lies. If he did not know the contents of our discussion, he failed at his job. I prefer to credit him with laziness rather than dishonesty.
Had Souhan examined the meeting, he would have found that I asked how much money the Minnesota Twins brought into Minneapolis; that I stressed the importance of a covered stadium to expand its use for other events; that I urged private investors to step forward, and that I urged that the stadium bill be passed on to the tax committee and eventually to the House floor, where all 134 members could have a say on the bill.
More important, had he reviewed the record, Souhan would have discovered that I voted "yes" to advance the bill to the next legislative step.
Souhan did not say how I voted in the original version of his column, but any reader is given the clear impression that I am a staunch stadium opponent. This is simply false.
Souhan accuses me of being a job-killer who opposes an economic-stimulus project. You could make that assertion only if I had voted "no." I didn't; I voted "yes."
I believe Souhan formed his opinion by taking a quote used without full context by another writer from the same newspaper April 17. That is lazy journalism.
I'm troubled that a columnist for a major metropolitan newspaper like the Star Tribune would be so vicious in an attack without verifying the facts. I understand the writer of a column is entitled to his opinion and receives great latitude in doing so.
But an opinion is not a license to tell half a story.
Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, is a member of the Minnesota House.
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